What kind of expert advocates a law which they know won’t work, which will be an unnecessary imposition – and which may well achieve the opposite of its intended effect? Why, an advisor to the World Health Organisation, of course: Dr Judith Mackay.

The WHO specialises in bungled lifestyle engineering, racking up expenses and inverting priorities – and Dr Mackay does them proud. For, using the template of UK tobacco laws, she took the opportunity during election week to suggest that there should be health warnings slapped on booze sold in Scotland. A first step, no doubt, to the plain-packaging that has already proved so ineffective when applied to tobacco.

The consequences are obvious – not least for the feeble Scottish economy – and we even have historical precedent to guide us. Prohibition led to gangsterism in the US. Prohibition-by-stealth will lead to gangsterism-by-stealth.

In his latest piece for the Spectator, Benedict Spence makes all these points – and adds an interesting psychological twist: it’s the forbidden fruit that tastes best. Overdo the warnings and you give alcohol (or drugs, or fags) a glamour they neither seek nor deserve.

In this light, we might consider the southern European habit of introducing children to wine in dilute form, thus ‘normalising’ the practice and allowing young people to share responsibly in an adult activity: so different from our age-limits and warnings and bingeing.

Since the Scots apparently love Europe so much, wouldn’t this be a better way to go? Embrace Catholic largesse, rather than Calvin’s chilly disapproval?

by Julia Dixon