Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Scottish Temperance Act, first results

Wonder about the result of the first vote under the Scottish Temperance Act? I know I did. Thankfully The Brewers' Journal from 1921 had the answers.

I can guess the attitude of temperance groups - one of despair. The results were very disappointing from their point of view. And they weren't going to get any better as the years passed.

"The final results of the polling in Scotland under the Scottish (Temperance) Act, 1913, are as follows :—

No change        500 areas.
Limitation of licences    34 „
No licence        40 „

Although it is not yet possible to state with complete accuracy the number of licences that will be extinguished as a result of the elections, it is in the neighbourhood of 420. These licence-holders will receive no compensation whatsoever, and the net result is that after a hiatus of seven years some 2 per cent, of the Scottish licences only will be extinguished, as against something like 8 per cent, of the licences in England and Wales, which have been done away with in the same period and compensation paid to the dispossessed owners and licensees, without one penny of this sum falling upon the State. In England and Wales, too, during the same period, and despite the war. much structural alteration and improvement of licensed property have been carried out. In Scotland, however, the right to demand such alteration as a condition of renewal of licences was withdrawn when the Act of 1918 was passed. From every standpoint, therefore, the Act has been retrograde one, retarding reform and progress ; and its repeal in order to make way for a wise and comprehensive measure of reform could not but benefit Scotland. The Scottish trade has now issued manifesto to the people asking for suggestions and co-operation in the matter of public-house reform. Although the Scottish Press has been largely utilised in response, most of the correspondence is on such questions as trading hours, etc. The real concern of the Scottish trade is with structural alterations and modifications, and with a better system of management."
"Brewers' Journal 1921", page 9.

The Act seems unfair in that pubs in England and Wales that had their licences removed usually got compensation from a fund to which all publicans were compelled to contribute. In Scotland, if the toffee-nosed and bible-bashing elements of the community were large enough, a publican's livelihood could be stripped from him in an instant.

The argument in the article - that the Act would actually mean a smaller percentage of pubs losing their licences than in England - we can check easily enough. The figures do exist. Let's take a look:

Pub licences in England and Scotland 1893 - 1930
England Scotland
Date  licences % drop licences % drop
1893 7,264
1895 103,341
1900 102,189
1903 7,127
1905 99,478
1910 92,484
1913 6,654
1914 87,660
1915 86,626 1895-1920 1893-1920
1920 83,432 19.27% 6,318 13.02%
1923 80,987 5,833
1924 80,420 5,957
1925 79,860 5,932
1926 79,330 5,953
1927 78,803 5,929
1928 79,420
1929 77,821 1920-1930 5,891 1920-1930
1930 77,821 6.73% 5,866 7.15%
"Brewer's Almanack 1928", page 125.
The Brewers' Society Statistical handbook 1973”, pages 50 - 51.

In fact, in the decade 1920 to 1930, a slightly higher percentage of pubs lost their licences in Scotland. But it's a fairly insignificant difference. Especially considering a much larger percentage of licences had been lost in England in the 25 years before that.

The temperance movement, of course, would only have been happy when every last licence had been removed. That wouldn't have stopped people boozing any more than it did in the USA. But at least the teetotallers could have celebrated their illusory victory.


Martyn Cornell said...

The rate of pub closures between 1900 and 1920 was 18 a week: rather more than the 16 a week supposedly closing at present (albeit on a larger base).

Ron Pattinson said...

Cynical bastard that I am, I'm dubious about so-many-pubs-per-week-closing numbers". But now the real numbers appear to be no longer published, it's impossible to check.