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The truths they don't want you to read....

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Social Life in Stornoway

There is a perception that the islands swing between excessive piety and excessive debauchery, but the truth is that Lewis has exactly the same problems and issues as most other places, with a few exceptions, but that often the extremes make the best stories.

The past week has seen the clash between tradition and modernisation come to the fore over the issue of Sunday licences for public houses.

On Sundays it used to be the case that the swings in one playpark were chained - the action of one man, on his own volition rather than as part of a policy - to prevent the children of Lewis enjoying anything other than solemnity. The new playpark in Stornoway is even closer this man, Travis Bickle, and I will watch with interest his actions when the facility opens.

One petrol station is open, a few pubs and hotels, but no leisure facilities, so the choices for much of Stornoway are limited. (Uist and Barra are much more relaxed about Sundays). The end result of this has been a traditional Saturday night fever of dancing, drinking and partying until long after the pubs close at 11pm. Bizarrely, Friday nights - where the pubs stay open until 1am - are very quiet.

This week, 9 public houses obtained licences until 1am Sunday morning despite the objections of the Free Church. Over a number of years, the Church have shown spectacular and repeated incompetence in submitting objections, which have repeatedly been thrown out for almost the same reasons. The three members of the Free Church declared an interest and came out of the meeting, leaving the other seven members of the Licensing Board to decide to decline to consider the objection.

With the remaining 4 establishments in town likely to apply for the same late licences, it would appear that the attempt by the Board to set policies to restrict the granting of late licences looks set to fail. Primarily, because those who are trying to drive this through will have to declare an interest and leave the meeting.

The next move by the Board is to consider the 'overprovision' of alcohol licences in the Western Isles (for which read Stornoway). The prospect of the Board (which includes 6 teetotal members) wandering the streets late on a Saturday night in an effort to establish which pub/club/hotel is 'surplus to requirements' looks set to bring general hilarity and ridicule onto the Board.

Alternatively, there will have to be a desktop exercise augmented by hearsay, rumour and gossip
to determine which licences will be targeted. This will bring widespread hilarity and ridicule, and - as night follows day - another visit to the Sheriff Court where the Board will lose. Again. And again.

But a bigger question on the declaration of interest remains unanswered. Did the three gentlemen declare an interest because:-
  • They are members of the Free Church, who were the objectors?
  • Their own views meant they couldn't take an objective stance?
  • The view of the Free Church means that they cannot take an objective stance?
Whichever it is, it will make for interesting future meetings of the Board.


Anonymous said...

One of your better blogs Angus.

I wonder if the Board is comprised of the same pepole who wail and knash their their teeth at the annual loss of the islands youth?

If you clamp down on one 'vice' the young will simply take up another. I would rather see my offspring with a vodka and coke than a line of coke. If the army can be held up for an example when after years of tolerating fit men let of steam it clamped down on the boozy way of life to a point that it became unsociable and damaging to ones career to drink. Now, they discharge them by the dozen for drugs offences. Sadly losing many good and able men who once would have simply got p*****d after in the traditional manner of hard work and hard play.

I do not condone the modern binge drinking way at all, but at least it can be seen what they are doing and importantly most calm down over the years and return to our mundane way of life. How many have not been there eh?

Anonymous said...

The Western Isles has a problem with alcohol which in terms of culture and attitudes to alcohol is worse than anywhere else in Scotland, to describe it as no worse than elsewhere is wrong. Just take a look at the local licensed premises, the majority would have been described as dives 20 years ago never mind now.

Anonymous said...

I also believe that the co=op on MacAulay Road has the largest percentage of floor area dedicated to booze in the UK and that the Cromwell Street store has the highest booze sales per shop floor area in UK. Nuff said.........

Why not also have a council local bye-law banning "Buckfast" and the like from the islands?

Anonymous said...

'Why not also have a council local bye-law banning "Buckfast" and the like from the islands?'

Why not simply send a birlinn down to Buckfast Abbey on the Devon coast and deal with the Monks (in denial about their product) in the old fashioned way? Bring back a bit of loot to help community projects too.

Anonymous said...

Interesting and importnat stuff Angus. The real issue is how to ensure that the emerging generation does not automatically follow the previous lot's behaviour. Sure alcohol needs to be controlled but by the government through alcohol tax rather than licensing boards exercising who knows what kind of role - over-provision? I don't agree with reiver about Stornoway's licensed premises - there are still some men's pubs and dives but the majority are unrecognisable compared to even 10 years ago. Change is happening and licensees are doing their bit - Stornoway now has cafe bars and restaurants which is progress. We need more and not less of these. We also need ferry and leisure services available 7 days a week. The fact is that the church through local bodies we all know and love is still exercising its far from enlightened policy designed to maintain its own flocks. It has to change.

Anonymous said...

7 day drinking culture - just what we need!

Are we above the average for alcoholics or does it just get amplified in a small community?

Slightly off tangent - wasnt there talk of a distillery in Uig. that would be a positive alcohol related story.

Anonymous said...

re anonymous 12.38

Just ask yourself how many of Stornoway's pubs would be able to compete in their present format in a competitive environment on the mainland.
1970's decor, the illegal sale of alcohol to those already drunk,chemical beer, poor or no selection of food, ripped seats, hooligan behaviour the list goes on.
Yes some places are doing there best to change but to many just want to rake the cash in irrespestive of the responsibility they have.
As you will have seen from previous posts I am not a natural supporter of the SNP but I support Kenny Macaskill when he says selling alcohol is a privellage not a right

Anonymous said...

"7 day drinking culture - just what we need!"

Where have you been hiding, the aforementioned pubs are already open and if the stay at home drinker runs dry then the off licence is open until 4pm!!

But no golf, no sports centre, no cinema and no way off the island for less than a weeks wage.

Sundays you gotta love the hypocrisy..

Hmm next sunday i can
a) stay at home
b) go out and get bladdered
c) go to church with the oh so happy people

Option a) for me and if the weather aint too bad i can take the kids out. Would be nice to take them away once in a while and get them back in time for school on Monday!

Anonymous said...

Re 9:17

Try a plane - good deals at the moment, and you will be back for school

Anonymous said...

Re: 11:00

yes, very happy people. See bullet point four on their website. Just what is needed to encourage our youngsters to stay here and not esca...move to the mainland.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1129

Weblink to wrong church. Try Free Church of Scotland for a different perspective.

Nìall Beag said...

Hmm.... If being a teetotaler and a member of the Free Kirk makes you unable to be objective, does being a drinker and a Catholic not have the same effect? And does aetheism magically transform one into a fully objective being? I think not.

I am not personally in favour of the strict sabbatarian traditions of certain protestant groups, but it is surely damaging to democracy when we censor people on the grounds of having a particular opinion....

Anonymous said...

anon 11.00 thanks for the tip. Just got a quote for 2 adults and 2 kids leaving sy on fri evening and returning from glasgow sun afternoon. It will only cost me £179.80 avg per person a grand total of £718.80...

I really hope your post was meant to be sarcastic!!!

Anonymous said...

We're the ones being oppressed by the Free Church and it's covert agents in the Comhairle and we've nothing to apologise for.

Anonymous said...

re 1;34 I do hope your church still believe bullet point 4 - I do and i belong to neither of your two chuches - the interesting point is that i know, that despite this i am going to heaven!