East Lothian Courier – 7 March 2024


Parliament wasn’t as frenetic last week but Palestine was still to the fore. I attended a briefing from Medics and Aid Agencies back from there. Oral testimony is always powerful, much more than what we read or view. And so, it was here where tears were brought to everyone presents eyes listening to the scale of the horror. However, bad we thought it was, it’s much worse and it’s why an immediate ceasefires vital.

Less tragic but still concerning was a debate on gambling and its impact on horse racing. Gambling is a social problem afflicting far too many. As with alcohol and drugs it requires action to be taken and support offered to those suffering. It’s what’s done that’s the issue and now there’s a significant threat to horse racing through a loss of income with proposed changes.

Now I’m a man for the hills not the horses but I know many who enjoy the sport. I also know how important the racecourse is to Musselburgh. It’s an institution providing employment for some and benefiting far wider on race day with pubs, cafes and guest houses all bustling. It’s also good fun. A flutter is part of the experience, as is gambling with horse racing itself.

Gambling has changed over the years. Most now bet online and horse racing is but a very small part of the industry. I believe that people require protection even from themselves. It’s why we regulate alcohol and drugs, and action’s needed on gambling. But that should be targeted and address advertising, availability and games of chance online or on machine which can be highly addictive.

Under current plans income that has been assured to horse racing for generations would be threatened and its loss would potentially be catastrophic for the likes of Musselburgh. It would also simply see racing from Ireland, France or even the Far East shown on TV screens, as ours closed.

A flutter on the horses isn’t the same as slot machines or the online industry which proliferates. The government need to get both the balance and the target right.