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< Regeneration, < New Start editorial index page

It’s the year 2020 and drinkers and smokers are about to be classed as an oppressed minority. Lobbyists for the smoking and drinking industry have come together to form a powerful, well-resourced alliance. Legislation has been drafted to protect smoker-drinkers’ rights against the self-centred will of the moral majority.

This is a slight exaggeration, but it’s arguably starting already. During the course of the Edinburgh Festival a few well-known actors risked prosecution by lighting up on stage. The ban is evidently a crime against art and culture.

And just last week pissed-off publicans (who are threatening to sue the Scottish Executive for loss of earnings) held aloft a report showing that the honest chuffer was losing his/her right to enjoy a quiet pint and a fag in the comfort of their long-serving local.

Not only is our economy suffering, they suggest, but entire communities are having the very heart cut out of them.

It’s not trendy up-town bars that will suffer, said Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, but the much loved and needed local pub: ‘traditional Scottish pubs, very often the social centres of their communities, would be under threat’.

This idea of pubs as community centres for grown-ups isn’t new, but then neither is scaremongering and nor is lobbying.

Those who work in regeneration are familiar with competitive funding regimes in which you attempt to get what you want by overselling the benefits of your project using all the buzz words of the day and, possibly, overstating the dangers of a community without the said project.

I’ve heard bid writers confess to pulling figures out of a hat in order to play the game or doing some perfunctory survey that doesn’t hold water but looks good to funders who don’t know any better. I’ve also heard them admit that not all the things they promised make sense.

And we’ve all come across people who believe the names of the unemployed, disadvantaged and vulnerable are simply used as a key to unlock funding and then ignored.

The winners are the people who tell the best tales and the losers are communities and those working to win over casualties of too many broken promises. Ultimately the game is self-defeating.

Susan Downer, assistant editor, New Start Online magazine

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