Stirling’s ‘McPubs’ have killed the spirit of the local

6 mins read

By Eddie Boyd

‘Millennials’ is a widely misused term that seems to encapsulate everyone born after 1980, and if headlines are to be believed, we are killing many of the older generations much loved institutions, values and very way of life. Some of my favourites are the vicious murder of mayonnaise, Hooters and even sex itself.

However, some traditions deserve to be held onto. Not because of mere nostalgia but because they offer a genuine service that benefits the community. One such institution is the local pub. A staple of British culture, or in the words of William Blake “A good local pub has much in common with a church, except that a pub is warmer, and there’s more conversation.”

The motivation for this article comes from the deflated feeling that so many of the “pubs” in Stirling give me. The corporate and cheap feeling of the establishments, contrasts the very way in which Stirling tries to portray itself; local, genuine and authentic.

The pub has famously been at the heart of small towns around Scotland, quite literally, for hundreds of years. Its very name an abbreviation for Public House, a label I think sums up how one should feel in such an establishment; at home with the public.

The images of such a place come to me in a wistful montage of fire places, glass clinks, imperfect singing, spilled beer and unflattering yet wholesome cackles. They have traditionally been a place of conversation, escapism and fundamentally – community.

Such establishments have served as perhaps the most important socialising spots for locals and students alike, in our own individual quests for meaning, love, justice and sometimes, just beer.

It is the slow death of this hearty independent institution, which brought the following to attention. I believe the ‘corporatisation’ of such establishments to be immoral, even damaging towards conversational discourse and community – where the number of televisions and ‘meal deals’ are given more weight than character or people.

Inside Stirling’s ‘The Crossed Peels’. Credit: JD Wetherspoon 

A monopoly has been emerging in Stirling’s pub scene over time, like all of Scotland. Wetherspoons is an easy target, with its forceful marketing and “ubiquitous soullessness”, advertising the use of smartphones to order food and drink to the table. Such services only increase the barriers to socialisation rather than the opposite; such as a micro-pub in Kent which has collected over £20,000 in fines for punters using their phone in the pub.

That said, Wetherspoons is not the main culprit in Stirling. Greene King own five of the drinking establishments in Stirling including: Molly Malones, Cold Beer Company (Morrisons), No.2 Baker Street, Corn Exchange and City Walls.

It’s not that any of these establishments are inherently bad, but their lack of soul detaches me to whatever atmosphere they are trying to push. It is the undoubtedly humanistic nature of the locally owned pub that I – along with so many others – love and cherish.

Research from Oxford University published in 2016, showed that people with a good pub close to them are “significantly” happier. They have more friends, better life satisfaction, and are more likely to drink in “moderation”.

You do not need a Marxist to heed the warnings of monopolisation. In fact, it is the free market that allows us, the consumers, to vote with our purse. One simple way we can exercise our values is to fulfil what is now a boring axiom – buy local. We as consumers must be more aware of the effects our consumption has on the world around us.

However, not all is doom and gloom. There is a pub revolution occurring around the country. Organisations such as the non-profit ‘Pub is the Hub’ are helping individuals and communities claim back their local gems. This is not a call to start-up your own pub just yet, but simply to be aware of how you spend your pennies and how that impacts local business.

Take your light student pockets to the Settle-Inn for some traditional music on a Wednesday, taste some of Scotland’s finest malts over a game of chess in the Curly Coo or challenge your flatmates to a Sunday night quiz in Nicky-Tams.

There are a handful of great pubs run by great people in our small student town. Let us show them that we do value local business for local people, all whilst numbing the cold loneliness of exam season with even colder beer to warm your soul.

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