MANY struggling pubs across Scotland can now only afford to open at weekends as drinkers turn to cheap supermarket booze, beleaguered landlords have warned. Scores of bars have been forced to close during the week due to a devastating dip in trade.Yep. It's a dire state of affairs, so it is. Time to fight back.
Some pubs in Glasgow are only open for EIGHT HOURS a FORTNIGHT - relying on punters watching big football matches to survive.
Jim McClelland, 57, has owned the Thistle Inn, in Crossmichael, Kirkcudbrightshire, for 35 years.So what's your plan, Jim?
But for the last six months he's been forced to shut up shop on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Jim groaned: "It just doesn't make any sense to pay staff when there are no customers.
"I've been running my bar for 35 years and this is the first time I've had to shut during the week. It's heart-breaking."
Jim reckons supermarkets and the smoking ban is killing the industry.
He said: "These supermarket giants are being allowed to crush our small businesses. They have so much power and the politicians seem scared to act."Supermarkets?
Err, Jim, how have they changed their business plan in the past ... ooh, I dunno ... 35 years? They have always sold beer cheaper than you. Considerably so, in fact.
So much power and politicians scared to act? There is certainly an industry to which that could apply, but it ain't the supermarkets. Try again.
Publican Tommy Muir has run the Fiveways Inn at Bridgeton Cross for 16 years.Since 1994, eh? Who do you blame, Tommy?
Tommy blames politicians for failing to protect the pub trade.By jove, I think he's got it!
He said: "We employ tens of thousands of people in this country but we're not being given a level playing field.Err, no actually. He hasn't.
"I'm not holding out too much hope in the SNP forcing through its minimum pricing on supermarket booze."
Listen Tommy. This is how it works, OK? The SNP are advocating a 40p minimum price per unit selling price. This would make a 24 pack of 440ml (Mmmmm) Carlsberg cans cost about £16. Even if the saggy-arsed one's recommendation of 50p per unit was implemented, it would still only result in the same pack being sold for £20.
The equivalent price in your pub (at a notional average of £2.50 per pint) would be over £45.
A considerable saving then, even with minimum pricing. Enough, in fact, for a slap up takeaway into the bargain.
And for the meal accompaniment, a glass of Jockland bottom drawer pub wine is probably over £3 while, even with a 50p minimum unit price, you can still get a whole bottle for £4.50 in Morrisons; and you can choose your favourite bottle; and you can finish off with a nice cigar should you so choose. Inside.
So how is this perceived panacea of the minimum unit price going to help you ... exactly?
Actually, perhaps I'm being a bit harsh on the publicans. For it would seem that some kind of myopic mass hysteria is at play here.
Scottish Licensed Trade Association chief Paul Waterson said: "The Government is allowing supermarkets to give alcohol away and ignoring the fact it's killing pubs."Nothing else to blame, Paul? Nothing at all? Really?
Colin Borland, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "This is a very difficult period for the small independent pub as they are up against supermarkets' very aggressive and predatory prices."Aggressive and predatory? Give me strength guys. There is a huge fucking elephant running amok and you're talking about applying a pretty kids' plaster to a deep, gaping gash which is spurting gallons of publican blood all over the industry.
There is, thankfully, one who is thinking on the right lines ... though still, like his customers who are in mid-conversation when their gaze, and attention, is drawn to the silent scrolling Sky Sports News ticker, he also loses his train of thought and partially falls for the big-bad-wolf-supermarket red herring.
Landlord Sean Kennedy has owned the National Hotel, in Dingwall, Easter Ross, for 10 years and is facing the same problems.BINGO!
"A lot of people have decided 'Why should I go to the pub when I can drink cheap supermarket booze and smoke at home?'"
Listen guys. The minimum alcohol pricing is, firstly, illegal under EU law. Secondly, it's not going to exert any influence on the prosperity of your business unless implemented in tandem with a relaxing of the far more damaging problem of the smoking ban.
It really is that simple.
Funnily enough, that's exactly the approach suggested by trade newspaper, The Publican - it may even be sold north of the border - in its pre-election 'manifesto' for 'saving' the pub trade.
Until they start making as much noise about the real source of their woes, instead of a quite inconsequential sideshow, these scottish publicans really don't deserve saving.