THE clocks have gone forward, the bonfires extinguished and the nights are stretching out which means we are hurtling headlong towards another “fun-filled” festive period.

It also means the streets will soon be full of once-a-year drinkers, sobbing into their colleagues’ shoulders after having a glass too many at the office Christmas lunch.

‘Tis the season to get jolly, after all.

But while our towns and city centres sometimes do resemble battlegrounds, does Scotland really have a major problem with drink?

According to some public health officials and politicians, the answer is a resounding yes and they have brought in a series of measures aimed at curbing the nation’s collective thirst.

The latest offering has come with calls to increase alcohol prices again to counteract a spike in deaths associated with the pandemic.

A group of 28 organisations wants the minimum unit price (MUP) of alcohol to be raised from 50p to 65p, highlighting modelling showing that this could save twice as many lives.

At a time in our risk-averse society when public officials seem to be the ones in charge then the move is not surprising, but that doesn’t mean that it’s right.

Expensive tipples that are enjoyed on special occasions are worst affected by MUP, while the ones that really cause the problems are hardly affected at all.

Young women do not spill off trains on a Saturday night clutching vintage bottles of champagne any more than young men stroll about drinking bottles of 25-year-old malt.

We know what their tipples actually are, but the result is the same – intoxication on cheap booze that is, ironically, untouched by MUP.

This is totally wrong and is only penalising the vast majority of folk who drink responsibly and also our biggest drink firms, which collectively employ thousands of people across the country.

Public health officials are driving this latest move but after seeing so many of their decisions backfire badly during the pandemic, they should be reigned in. Virtually every endemic problem in Scotland seems to be blamed on alcohol and many officials will not stop until drink is outlawed completely.

Some of the most bizarre rules during the pandemic were the ones surrounding alcohol, confirming that public health officials and politicians simply do not trust Scots to drink responsibly.

Of course, many Scots do have a problem with alcohol and this can have a devastating effect, both to the individual and to society as a whole.

Alcohol-fuelled violence is also too prevalent and stretches our already hard-pressed police officers every weekend and beyond.

I think we could all admit that we could, and should, drink less – but that is our personal choice and must remain that way.