If police are going to start drug testing clubbers, we may as well all stay at home

Itemisers and sniffer dogs are the latest weapons in the war on fun


Aberdeen clubbers were outraged last month when police turned up uninvited to Club Tropicana and subjected those in the queue to random drug tests.

Determined to do the unthinkable and add another level of abject joylessness to a night out in the Granite City, officers swabbed hands for traces of illegal substances. Refusal to cooperate meant your night ended there, with door staff encouraged to bar those who didn’t comply. Anyone who tested positive, whether they were guilty of a crime or not, was likely to be searched and arrested.

The police’s nauseating, privacy-busting scare tactics have been criticised by just about anyone in the know – from politicians and club landlords to licensing law experts – and the fact their itemiser and sniffer dog disappointed them and found nobody smashing in ecstasy, cannabis, cocaine or, more ludicrously, heroin at the 80s-themed dive on two consecutive nights is unsurprising.

Neither is the sneering, net-curtain derision directed at young people – imagined as an amorphous, sub-Kevin and Perry Go Large mob – who dare venture out in city centres past 10pm.

Don't let them know you're high (posed for by models)

Don’t let them know you’re high (posed for by models)

Half-arsed measures to coerce us into drugless nights out are nothing new. Empty amnesty bins and bored sniffer dogs outside clubs invite wet-lipped suburban teenagers to feel like Pablo Escobar and battered posters from the Nokia years threaten prison sentences just as dependably as your dreary flatmates whine about cheesy chips.

Of course, it’s all pointless window dressing which doesn’t move anyone to do anything. The cycle of your weekend – whether fuelled by Calvin Harris, Snapchat and vodka Red Bull or deep house, a nagging sense of self-loathing and a bit of third rate mandy – goes on regardless. Either way, you’ll probably have a good time without really bothering anyone. That, after all, is the point of going out.

The police, however – previously seen on Saturday nights dealing with stag-do dickheads – are stepping up their efforts to stop anyone having anything resembling fun at all. It’s at this point we stop being people and become “revellers”. Tanked up and kerb-stomping all over the zeitgeist, shovelling legal highs into one another’s mouths and using money earned from selling fat balloons of hippy crack to buy web-hosting space for all those nudes of one another we spend our free time leaking, we’re given as few concessions as possible.

In the bizarre case of “stop and swab”, there’s no comfort in believing police only care about a small minority of idiots. The self-congratulatory, risible boredom of the Loughborough SU fleeces who started breathalysing freshers is dangerously close to becoming accepted wisdom – legitimised and lent urgency by PC Killjoy’s warrant card.

Big nights out don’t belong in 2015 precisely because they don’t belong to anyone who watches Poldark or has money tied up in buy-to-let. Half of Britain’s nightclubs – some of them celebrated, many others unashamedly shit – have closed in the past ten years.

Sad, draconian measures like those in Aberdeen are only hastening the decline. Soon, there will be nowhere in our town and city centres for kids who don’t know any better to get off their faces and act like idiots for the night – but it’s unlikely any of the overpaid and undersexed fortysomethings in wine bars will be having their hands swabbed for cheap coke anytime soon.

The mortgaged great and good think they won’t regret the clubs lost to property developers – but they will regret the frustrated generation driven to trashing their living rooms and kitchens in search of something to do.