Mhairi Black MP drinking beer on ScotRail train isn't shocking. The ban is – Scotsman comment

Whisper it in shocked tones: a Member of Parliament has been caught drinking alcohol on a public train.

But then remember something else: on the vast majority of trains in the UK, this is perfectly normal, so much so that some even actually sell beer, wine and spirits quite openly.

Mhairi Black, the SNP MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, has apologised for breaking ScotRail’s rules by sipping from a can of lager on a train from Glasgow Central after apparently watching her football team, Partick Thistle, being beaten by Ayr United on Friday night. And she should have followed the rules.

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However, it’s hardly the worst thing an MP has done recently and Black may have simply forgotten the policy, given a blanket ban was introduced by ScotRail as a Covid measure in 2020, extending a previous ban after 9pm, but not other rail companies. So when travelling down to London to fulfil her duties in the UK Parliament, there is no problem with alcohol consumption.

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After ScotRail came under direct Scottish Government control last month, the blanket ban was placed “under review" but no date has been set for it to be lifted, unlike other Covid restrictions.

Scotland undoubtedly has a drink problem but prohibition, even if limited in scope, is not the answer. Better education about the benefits of healthy living and policies like minimum unit pricing are more likely to have an impact.

There is a danger in the gradual erosion of freedom in public spaces, which includes public transport. And we should always be wary of ‘nanny state’ restrictions brought in for one reason, but then somehow maintained even if that reason goes away or is diminished.

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to note ScotRail’s previous alcohol ban after 9pm



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