Trending Debate: should the Arches lower its entry age back down to 18?

(This article was published in our print edition in March 2014, although the Arches have since reversed their decision to raise its entry age to 21, all information was correct at the time of publication).

By Rachel More 

Wherever you go in the world, whatever period of history you belong to, people have always dabbled in drink and drugs. The ancient Egyptians considered beer to be holy and the Romans certainly enjoyed a good bevvy. Literary greats of yesteryear enjoyed a toke on some opium as a source of inspiration. And just a few years ago, BBC documentary Tribe showed the presenter tripping out on some psychadelic iboga root.

The fact that substance use (and therefore substance misuse) is as old as the hills makes it a very difficult issue to tackle. Yet when 17-year-old Regane died last month at an Arches club night, people were looking for a scapegoat. The Arches night club cancelled all club nights for the next fortnight and have since increased the entry age to 21. Police will be pleased with the PR stunt, but is it really fair to place the onus on the club to tackle Glasgow’s drug problem?

Disappointed fans have been voicing their concerns on the Arches’ Facebook page. It’s been called a ‘horrendous decision’, ‘shocking move’arches 2 and ‘massive overreaction’. One girl complains that she has just turned 18 and now has to wait another three years before she will be allowed in.

Why is it this tiny age bracket who are having to answer to Glasgow’s drug problem? Do over 21’s not on occasion pop pills and drink too much?

The raised entry age might be a step towards tackling the issue but it is a step in the wrong direction. Rogue batches of pills and unscrupulous dealers will still continue to deal their poison to a naive and poorly informed market. MDMA was first patented in 1913 and ecstasy is still very easy to come by on a night out in Glasgow. Rather than continuing with a blanket ban the government needs to face the facts.

Prohibition does not work. It didn’t work in the 1920’s when people resorted to distilling blindingly strong gin in their own grotty bathtubs. It does not work today when a ‘War on Drugs’ may sound appealing but in all honesty is completely unwinnable. Donald MacLeod, who owns a chain of clubs including the Garage and O’Couture, believes some kind of change in legislation could help. He told The Herald, ‘We have to be more grown-up about it. We have to look at these options rather than disregard them. As it is, we’re not dealing with the problem and it’s wrong.’

Former Sub Club owner, Paul Crawford, also advocates a less conventional approach. He suggests introducing drug testing stations in clubs. Rooting out fatal chemicals and ultimately saving lives – a step towards decriminalisation would offer a better solution in practice than the current stubborn attitude of the law and its enforcers.

The new over 21’s policy at the Arches is unfair and misguided. Let’s take a broader look at the problem and ask our politicians to act, rather than our club owners. The drugs don’t work, and neither does the law.

By Chris Park, Features Editor

It’s a controversial position to hold at the moment because a lot of students are (understandably) disappointed about the Arches recent decision to raise its entry age from 18 to 21. But I think the student population have to look at the bigger picture and the bigger issues at hand. Most unfortunately, the fact is, someone has died. Only 17 years old, Regane McColl had her whole life ahead of her. It just doesn’t seem right that things should continue as if nothing ever happened – as if Regane never existed.

The Arches had to something. By raising its entry age the club respected Regane’s tragic death and they acknowledged that things had to change. Of course, they’re not alone because drugs (whether classed as illegal or a new ‘legal high’ that’s just emerged and hasn’t been classified) are a problem facing bars and clubs everywhere in the UK. The Arches have taken the first step for our country to begin its search for a long term solution which at the moment is so elusive.

Another way to look at it is that if the clubs themselves don’t make changes then the government will step in and impose reforms that would drugsexacerbate the situation for everyone. As young people, we have the freedom to enjoy ourselves and part of that freedom is being able to go clubbing and drink alcohol; essentially, it’s the freedom to be as drunk or as sober as we like – whether we choose to or not, it’s a large part of youth culture, we know the dangers so what we do with our freedom is up to individuals. We already know the Scottish government is on a mission to tackle the country’s booze habits so I don’t think they would rule out raising the entry age of all bars and clubs to 21 in the future – certainly if the problem gets worse.

Even with all the complaints and despair on Twitter and Facebook after the Arches announced the news I firmly believe young people need to collectively acknowledge that it was justified and it has probably saved us from radical government intervention or a volley criticism that nothing was done and nobody cared. It was disappointing that so many Tweets and status’ were begrudging the Arches for removing a potential place for a night out from an already long, diverse list of Glasgow clubs and people were seemingly ignorant that a young girl had died where they would be partying.

But with this in mind, many of the criticisms of the Arches’ decision are more plausible. For example it seems to suggest that people over the age of 21 don’t take drugs which just isn’t true. Furthermore, there is already a problem of people using fake ID’s (Regane was only 17) and this will undoubtedly increase for the Arches – a problem that is even more imperative as drug use in clubs.

It’s understandable that people will feel indignant that the majority are punished for something only the minority do. But we’ve now hit a pivotal moment and students and young people should support small compromises for the sake of their future enjoyment and safety.d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)[0].appendChild(s);