ITWAS Ford Kiernan on the radio who caused my first sense of humour failure. Drink Irn-Bru 32, whispered the actor in his most threatening Glasgow hardman voice, "and it will make you attack life with a hammer."

Then came the "Wakey Wakey" TV advert, in which a hardman in a cuckoo suit burst into a library, abused the librarian as a tweedy old crone, and told the students to stop reading books, drink Irn-Bru 32 and get a life.

Ho, ho, ho. I bet the campaign has the nation's school teachers rolling in the aisles. I bet the police and health-service workers who sweep up broken bodies every night think it's hilarious.

Attack life with a hammer! Why, of course. What joy that advert will bring, for example, to the Bearsden home of the young man who died last month, after he was battered around the head in an unprovoked attack while standing in a taxi queue . . . or to the dozens of victims scarred and damaged every week by street violence in Scotland.

What does A G Barr plan for its next trick? To customise that dreadful, iconic, CCTV clip of two Lanarkshire thugs, in which one holds the railings for balance while he jumps upon a victim's head, perhaps? Drink Irn-Bru 32 and get lift-off like this. That would be funny.

You have to wonder, actually, just what went on in the minds of the creative folk at the Leith Agency when they came to publicise Barr's new caffeine-high energy drink, a souped-up version of Irn-Bru to rival Red Bull.

Of course, the agency had already made a mark with the controversial campaign for ordinary Irn-Bru, mocking the old, the transsexual and the ugly. I wonder if any of these clever people, however, as they discussed how to sell the new product with crude aggression and antiintellectualism, thought about the young Scots for whom such a culture is not a joke but a prison sentence?

Not enough, plainly. Highearning advertising executives are largely divorced from the realities that they mock, just as they show little sense of responsibility about helping to nurture a smart, successful Scotland, or raise us off the bottom of the world's badhealth index. It's post-modern irony, isn't it? What's the problem?

Indeed, Ed Brooke, group account director of the Leith Agency, has said: "In our hardman cuckoo, we've got a distinctive spokesman with real cut through. Just what you need for a product launch." Real cut through. Sure. That's just what they're saying in Possil.

Now I have a mordant sense of humour. Generally, political correctness frustrates me. But there is clearly a point at which it is both offensive and irresponsible, in a small country blighted with petty violence, poor school attainment and bad nutrition, for a leading Scottish company to glamorise precisely those things in order to sell a soft drink of dubious health benefits.

Both Irn-Bru 32 and Red Bull, the product it is pitched against, contain 80mg of caffeine per can. Red Bull is banned for health reasons in France and Denmark. Judges at the European Court of Justice chose to uphold France's ban, saying a study by the French Scientific Committee on Human Nutrition found Red Bull contained excessive caffeine.

The youngsters who will be most vulnerable to thuggery and ignorance and poor diet don't care. As is clear from the blogs already appearing about Irn-Bru 32: "Im wondering is it any good though, I havn't tasted it, but have exams coming up, so im thinking it might be a good idea, but all that caffine isn't good for you." "Your only young once and if you want 2 'overdose' on irn-bru, do have fun while doing it and you might even like it . . . and maybe just maybe it will also keep u awake for all that aka studying . . ." "So chill take a sip of Irn-Bru and let the good times roll . . . and the study commence . . ." "Scotlands national hangover cure gets better. I think I will get very drunk tonight and try and get a hangover to test it. Purely scientific research you understand." "Who cares about content, get it done lad! Irn-Bru is lovely stuff I say, and it's well worth getting p****d to

try out the new stuff."

Whither the Scottish renaissance, indeed.

Such happy memories of Margaret Ewing

To Lossiemouth today, for one of the biggest, warmest and most genuine of funeral gatherings. Margaret Ewing can best be described as possessing a wonderful lightness of being: one of those rare people who always brought sunniness into the room with them.

Remarkably for a politician, she was neither egotistical nor bitchy. She preferred to say something positive, or remain silent, rather than criticise. Despite the fact she endured cruel health in recent years, I never once heard her complain; she actively avoided talking about herself. She loved sharp intellectual debate, she loved to laugh and she loved nice clothes and doing girly things: in fact, she was one of the pioneers who proved these things were not mutually exclusive if you are a woman.

My colleague, Hugh MacDonald, remembers getting an instant crush on her when she came to his school as a newly-elected MP. He was 16, she was 26: a drop-dead glamorous blonde in a mini-skirt. "She was just so nice to us, " he recollects.

The lovely thing about Margaret was that, throughout her life, she seems to have left most people saying that. Not many of us leave a legacy like that.

My abiding memory of her is a truly peaceful one. Margaret loved dogs, but her itinerant lifestyle meant she could not keep one; and I can still see her, stretched happily on my sofa at Hogmanay parties, entwined with the dogs; lost in a world of her own; for hours neither talking nor joining in the chat, but just gently stroking, stroking, stroking them.

Mementoes that have gone up in smoke

The only thing really to mourn, with the smoking ban, are the ashtrays. What trophies they were: art forms, mementoes of lost romances and boozy afternoons. I still treasure a very stylish Guinness one, and an ultra-cool Pernod one, purloined long ago from Edinburgh pubs, which may one day become valuable. "Now, can you guess what these strange things were for?" they will ask on the Antiques Roadshow in 2086.