Saturday 22 March 2008


Drinking is a problem. Underage drinking is a problem. But this can't be the solution. It's not the difference between 18 and 21 we should be worrying about, but those under 16 who are drinking in increasing numbers. According to Alcohol Focus Scotland:

- Less than half of 15 year olds and a third of 13 year olds report drinking alcohol in the past week.
- The number of 13 year olds drinking in the past week has doubled since 1990.

The problem of young people drinking is less of people buying alcohol underage - many shops do require ID to be shown, and I've certainly been ID'd a few times even after I passed my 21st birthday. The problem is more one of young people having access to alcohol and adults tolerating this. If someone of twelve or fourteen is drinking, someone older (a sibling, a parent, or a friend) has most likely given it to them or knows that they've been drinking. It's easy to blame the media or blame society, but in reality, it's down to responsible parenting. As long as getting drunk is endorsed or allowed by a 'responsible' adult then it will be much harder to tackle the problem of underage drinking.

The impact of alcohol on a young person is far greater than on an adult. The health consequences aren't emphasised enough in my view - the HEBS ad with the school girl drinking at a party is more about the embarrasment of the the day after the night before. That's perhaps a factor in persuading people to drink less, but if young people think it's cool to drink til they pass out that battle is already lost.

Schemes like Young Booze Busters by GEAAP are good at highlighting to young people the health impacts of drinking as well as the social aspects. GEAAP already have access to some schools in Glasgow to raise awareness, but much more needs to be done.

Thursday 13 March 2008

It don't mean a thing, if you ain't got that swing!

I was really chuffed tonight to find that swings had finally been fitted at Helenslea Park in my ward.

I've been chasing up the case of the replacement swings since last summer when staff at the Helenslea Hall told me that the swings had been removed for safety issues, and they were waiting for replacements. I feel like I've been nagging for ages and I almost thought that they would never arrive, so I'm pleased to see some results at long last. Sometimes it's hard to see tangible physical results for the long hours I put in - I've actually pointed out to Joe some potholes I got fixed and some street lights I got upgraded - but this was particularly pleasing.

You might wonder why I appear to be hanging about on my own in this picture - the kids who were using the swings when I got there couldn't be in the picture without parental permission, so they were eventually persuaded to jump off for the few seconds it took to snap this photo. As soon as it was taken, they all raced back onto the swings!

Women's Day Event

I attended an event today at Celtic Park organised by Greater Easterhouse Women's Aid to mark International Women's Day (yes, I know it was on the 8th of March), which centred on highlighting the continuing scourge of domestic abuse.

I was already aware of some of the issues, but the presentations at the event focussed my attention on many other issues and problems. In particular, two issues stood out: the number of hoops a woman fleeing violence must jump through, and the high proportion of domestic abuse cases in the East End of Glasgow. Many agencies were in attendance at the event, and I hope that they will be spurred on to tackle the communication and co-ordination problems identified in the presentations. There seems to be a real need for everyone to work smarter and more closely to prevent women falling through the gaps.

I hope as well that the warm words spoken by people today turn into further action to change attitudes and stop the very private cycle of violence which persists in our society.

Swearing allegiance

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at reports of plans to make young people swear allegiance to Queen and "country". The Labour Government in Westminster is surely in dire straits if they think this is a good idea, and I don't see what's in it for them at all. It makes them look crazy - there's no popular demand for this idea outside of an Orange Walk, and everyone from Labour peers to the Scottish Government think it's completely unnecessary.

Leave aside for a second the fact that education is devolved, and therefore entirely outwith the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister. Personally, I would be completely offended if a teacher insisted I recited some pledge against my will. I can see young people (and indeed, plenty of teachers!) in Scotland rebelling against the idea, which can only help to highlight the need for Scottish Independence.

People who know me know that I've no particularly strong views on the Queen, but I know plenty of people who do hold strong republican views. I expect they will be aghast that Lord Goldsmith

...could not see why Republicans would not want to swear an oath, even though they may not believe in the present system of government.

Perhaps because they have strongly held principles? Ah, wait, right enough, New Labour do have a problem recognising such things!

I was fairly reassured that even
people who do have a fairly favourable opinion of the Queen think this is a daft idea. Brian Taylor rather neatly points out the many flaws of the idea, and there's even a facebook group. I'm pretty nervous however that this puts me on the same side of the fence as Terry Kelly...

I don't understand why Lord Goldsmith thinks that this idea will give teenagers a sense of belonging over anything else. I don't think that this will benefit anyone. I don't believe that it's right that people should be forced into reciting this kind of thing against their beliefs (I've been uncomfortable about this since a primary teacher made our entire class recite the Lords Prayer every morning). The whole idea smacks of a last gasp attempt to patch together the British state.