The Local Veto allowed areas in Scotland to vote on whether any licences for the sale of alcohol would be granted. Effectively turning a district dry. Temperance campaigners spent a couple of decades trying to force it through parliament. They hoped that areas would go dry one by one, resulting in total prohibition. Just one slight problem. Most areas had a "wet" majority.
The following roundup of Scottish newspaper articles about the phenomenon may sound familiar. It's a lot like the bilge you read in today's newspapers about "binge" drinking.
"The crazy patchwork of "temperance" experiment, set up by the operation of the Temperance (Scotland) Act, is causing much confusion in that country which at once is the playground of the tourist and the corpus vile of teetotal activity. The result of last year's "local option" voting under the Act has had results which the progenitors of the Act apparently were incapable of foreseeing. Here and there certain areas have gone "dry," the licensed house has been deprived of its licence, whilst in contiguous areas " no change " is the rule of the day. We referred last month to the fact that this state of affairs has led to the resuscitation of many omnibus and tram-car routes between "dry" and "wet" areas, owing, as one local newspaper describes it, to the "search for drink." The Press of Scotland, indeed, is to-day full of boldly-headed articles telling of the unmanageable throngs who besiege the tram-cars and buses in their endeavour to reach outlying districts which are able to minister to their requirements for alcohol. In lurid colours is painted the condition of these poor, misguided people — "men and women of the lowest class in search of drink" who so crowd the conveyances that "regular users of the cars complain that they are unable to get home." According to the manager of the Glasgow Corporation Tramways — Glasgow has an inconvenient habit of closing its licensed houses on Tuesday evenings — on the homeward trek "90 per cent, of the passengers are under the influence of liquor, some singing, some quarrelling, and some smoking" contrary to regulation. We perused these stories of the iniquitous behaviour of our "brother Scots," told in their own newspapers, with deep-felt sympathy, albeit we inclined to take comfort in the reflection that having made their bed they must lie in it, till our eyes were held (despite the miscroscopic headline) by the following astounding information:—
It was reported by the Chief Constable to the Glasgow Magistrates yesterday that the convictions for offences involving drunkenness recorded at the divisional police courts of the city during the week ended September 18th numbered 352, contrasted with 544 cases in the corresponding period of last year. The continued decrease of drunkenness is interesting in view of the fact that the trading hours for licensed premises were extended on September 1st under the now Licensing Act.
In the "dishing up" of "news," our friends of the Northern Kingdom can surely give points to some of our Press south of the Border!"
Brewers Journal 1921, page 423.
The phrase "men and women of the lowest class" immediately made me think of Rab C. Nesbitt and his mates. Funny that.
The Local Veto Act turned out to be an expensive farce. Local taxpayers had to foot the bill for repeated polls, few of which resulted in areas going "dry". Its effect on the number of licences overall in Scotland was minimal. It managed to both disappoint temperance campaigners and annoy the pub trade.