I must congratulate you for providing a week-long, in-depth look at alcohol.

Alcohol is the drug that most families in Scotland are more familiar with than any other. Because of its nature, alcohol is at the centre of most family celebrations, from christenings to weddings and funerals. It is the acceptable fuel that drives our New Year celebrations, our sporting successes and provides a serious load of cash to the Treasury.

So what’s not to like about alcohol? Answer: the fact that alcohol harm now outstrips all other drugs of misuse, not just because of the alcohol-related deaths at 1,276 and illegal drugs deaths at 1,051 in 2022, but because we don’t even bother to include the alcohol-related deaths from suicide, road traffic accidents, violent incidents, domestic abuse, murders or accidents from drownings when people are drunk. Not even from serious mental health conditions triggered by alcohol misuse. Hospital admissions from alcohol of 35,187 in 2021/22 are high compared to the 12,474 drug-misuse hospital admissions in the same time frame.

So what is it about alcohol that we Scots so love? It is the simple fact that although alcohol is classified chemically as a depressant, downer type of drug, its real nature is that it is disinhibits us. Disinhibition allows us to become the life and soul of the party, by being the star turn at the karaoke, delivering the best-ever best man’s speech, or entertaining our friends throughout the night with our comic performances or singing and dancing.

But disinhibiting alcohol also picks up our basic personality traits and moods, allowing us to express our deeply-hidden character and emotions, or the anger of unresolved hurt and damage, or our undiagnosed and untreated depressions. Some people become all weepy and share secrets that they never would in public, others dare to tell people what they really think of them and lose friends or even their jobs. Worst of all, we know that alcohol use is almost always associated with suicides, and this I believe is because in our depressive, negative state of mind, some of us then find the courage, from alcohol, that pushes us over the edge to our deaths.

Even although alcohol is increasing in price because of the unit pricing imposed by the Scottish Government, it still has not stopped those with a dependency from self-medicating on alcohol. The unforeseen consequences of higher alcohol pricing is that fewer young people are drinking, but instead are turning to illegal drugs because they are so much cheaper.

For the last 20 years the alcohol industry has, like the tobacco industry before it, used marketing tools aimed at the young, offering hundreds of new and exotic tastes and flavours to expand the range of people buying drink. It is now almost impossible to find a bottle of gin that tastes like real gin amongst hundreds of new gin varieties. I don’t suppose our politicians will be addressing that problem anytime soon?

Max Cruickshank, Glasgow.

SCOTLAND & ALCOHOL: Find the full list of articles here

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The Buckie bonus

I REALLY enjoyed Kevin McKenna’s article on Buckfast the drink and Buckfast Abbey at Buckfastleigh, about 15 miles from Torquay ("Buckfast Tonic Wine, its Scottish connection and Holy roots" heraldscotland, March 5). I have visited it twice when on holiday in the area and can thoroughly recommend it. The buildings and grounds are beautiful and the cream tea is to die for.

Like Kevin McKenna, I also remember a little old lady in front of me in the queue at the gift shop telling her friend of the benefits of a wee glass of Buckie at bed time. I imagined an off licence in The Wirral selling about 20 bottles of the tonic wine per year to elderly or infirm customers. Then my mind focused on these beautiful grounds all paid for by customers in Glasgow and the west of Scotland and I could picture tanker-loads in convoy travelling north on the M6.

Duncan Sooman, Milngavie.

Burns got it right

BLAIR Bowman, whisky consultant and broker, named number three in the Top 100 Most Influential People in Drinks 2023, said that Scotch can be enjoyed in many ways ("It’s time to enjoy Scotch the way you like it, says drinks expert Bowman ",The Herald, March 6).

I believe that one of its main attributes was well described by Robert Burns in his poem entitled Scotch Drink:

"Food fills the wame, an’ keeps us leevin;

Tho’ life’s a gift , no worth receivin’,

When heavy-dragg’d wi’ pine an’ grievin;

But oil’d by thee,

The wheels o’ life gae down-hill, scrievin,

Wi’ rattlin glee."

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.

Has diversity gone off track?

LAST Saturday evening (March 2) I tuned in with anticipation to the BBC’s coverage of the World Indoor Athletics Championships being held in Glasgow.

The programme was presented by the always-excellent Gabby Logan, who introduced her supporting panel of experts. I have to say that I raised a quizzical eyebrow on seeing that all three were female.

For the avoidance of doubt that was not a problem of itself as all three certainly have the experience and credentials to provide insightful commentary, which they all did. However, I did wonder if the BBC’s Diversity Officer was asleep at the wheel or had the weekend off as here, surely, was a clear and flagrant breach of diversity, equity and inclusion operating procedures.

One can only imagine the stooshie if the panel had been three white blokes “mansplaining" the strategy of middle-distance running to an outraged audience.

Or has the pendulum swung too far?

Keith Swinley, Ayr.

The Herald: Gabby LoganGabby Logan (Image: PA)

Football better without VAR

LIKE David Miller (Letters, March 6), I am all for abolishing VAR. I have started to ignore live Scottish Premiership and English Premier league games on TV, preferring instead to watch Scottish and English Championship ones. Last night's game between Ipswich and Bristol City (March 5) was exciting; the referee actually let a few things go which might otherwise have meant interruptions for free-kicks, and the game was all the better for it. Football as we of a certain vintage remember it.

For the most part, I believe the likes of Don Robertson and John Beaton are decent referees but their judgment and decision-making are being undermined, not assisted, by the often rather subjective interventions by VAR.

The only downside of abolishing VAR that I can see is that our referees will no longer be considered for prestigious European and International matches.

John O'Kane, Glasgow.