I admit to some surprise that SNP ministers seem determined to include the under-21 off-sale alcohol ban in their Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill, despite Thursday's parliamentary vote against the idea and the head of steam that has built up in public opinion.

We can applaud the determination to cut down on alcohol-related ill health and public disorder, but are the limited pilot schemes that have been carried out - in conjunction with increased policing, be it noted - really a basis for saying that the proposal will work? And in any event is a blanket ban really necessary in order to make a difference? Why not allow local licensing boards to restrict sales to the 18-21 age group during a specific time slot, and perhaps in a specific area, where they perceive there to be a problem? Then the law can be applied flexibly so as to preserve individual freedom at the same time as targeting the trouble spots.

Other thoughts: why not ban under-18s from being in possession of alcohol in public, and/or extend current prohibitions on drinking in public outwith licensed premises? Would these not do more to tackle the real problems?