DAVID Cameron has backed calls for football fans in Scotland to be allowed to drink alcohol at matches.
The Prime Minister has clashed with referendum rival Alex Salmond who branded the plan a “daft notion” as Scotland attempts to change its unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
Labour leader Jim Murphy has been calling for an end to the 35-year-old ban which was introduced in Scotland in the aftermath of the rioting which followed a notorious Old Firm Cup final between Rangers and Celtic.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson first demanded a review of the ban in September 2013. The party has carried out a survey of all clubs in the Scottish Professional Football League which suggests that 85 per cent of the 26 clubs that responded want an end to the drink ban.
And it has now received the backing of Mr Cameron.
“I think Ruth is right to raise this issue. we should always try to treat people as responsible adults if we possibly can,” the Prime Minister said. “We’ve shown with other sports and other fixtures that you can have a couple of drinks and behave properly and have a good game.
“I can’t pretend that when I watch cricket its an entirely tee-total experience and you can be there for a quite a long time.”
A spokesman for Mr Cameron told The Scotsman yesterday he did not believe the Prime Minister had been to a football game in Scotland.
Supporters can already have a drink in stadiums in England. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she is “far from convinced” about removing it, warning against “taking a step backwards”.
Her predecessor has also now spoken out against the proposal, claiming football clubs want the chance to “sell pints at inflated prices to a captive audience”.
He added: “Some of us remember why the booze was banned at matches in the first place. Because drink-fuelled, unacceptable scenes of violence and mayhem are the last things that Scottish football needs.”
Mr Murphy met football clubs and supporters’ groups at Hampden last week to discuss the issue. The SFA is keen to see fans being allowed to drink in a “controlled environment” for up to two hours before games inside the stadium. The summit heard from safety officers at the Old Firm who said the current situation encourages binge drinking in pubs before games.
But senior figures from Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, the Violence Reduction Unit and Alcohol Focus Scotland have voiced concerns.
They argued that there are “important reasons” to maintain the current arrangements for the control of alcohol availability in football grounds.
They also voiced disappointment at what they said was a lack of discussion with them in the consultations taking place. In an open letter published last week, they said the debate must “go well beyond the world of football”.
It added: “This is not merely a matter of ‘consulting with the fans’. Alcohol’s impact on health, families, work and safety goes much wider than those attending the game and those hoping to profit from the sale of alcohol should not have the dominant voice in discussions.”
Police Scotland Chief Constable Sir Stephen House has said he would be “extremely concerned’’ at any proposal to change the law, but would enter into formal discussions with the footballing authorities.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS