Moves to abolish beer tents at Highland Games and gala days is part of the Scottish Government’s habit of bombarding people with mixed messages over responsible drinking, Miles Briggs, Scottish Conservative health secretary, has said.
Mr Briggs was speaking after it emerged the Scottish Government is considering a recommendation from NHS Lothian which could ban alcohol from public gatherings where children are present.
As part of a consultation on licensing, NHS Lothian said licenses should not be granted ‘for events that are aimed at children and families such as school fairs, school discos and gala days.’
Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) warned ‘children can be impacted by the drinking behaviour they observe and by adults drinking.’
However, Ian Grieve, secretary of the Scottish Highland Games Association, representing over 60 Games , said the beer tent was an intrinsic element of the Games.
“The world’s gone a wee bit mad. There’s nothing wrong with people having a drink and enjoying their day as long as it’s properly managed. It doesn’t affect children.
“If you go to many towns you will see tables on the pavement families enjoying a drink with a meal.
“A beer tent is part of the package for many venues and a ban would be a blow to some of them.
“We do not have data on this. Some games do not have a beer tent while others have them and it is a popular part of their event, we will have to do a bit more research with our members to see what impact this could have going forward.”
Mr Briggs said: “Many events, particularly Highland Games are inter-generational, meant for the whole family.
“It’s important to encourage as so many places have lot their sense of community.
“Highland Games present a great opportunity for families to socialise together.
“These are opportunities for responsible drinking when out and about and this is one.
“But the Scottish Government is definitely putting out mixed messages here.
“On one hand it wants children to learn about safe drinking then appears to be looking at ways of stopping it happening it all. We all want to see action taken on the alcohol abuse but not in this way.”
Highland and Alcohol Drugs Partnership which includes NHS Highland, Highland Council and Police Scotland, said: “Ideally any event that is organised with children and young people in mind should not be granted a licence.”
Figures from AFS show alcohol was a factor in 3,705 deaths in Scotland in 2015.