Call for rationing gives Althing something to chew over

You might expect people starved for so long of a good Saturday-night debate to run a mile from the very idea that rationing should make a come-back.

But that is exactly what Saturday’s long-anticipated Althing, back for the first time since before Covid, has supported.

Over 20 people attended the Lerwick Town Hall to feast on a hotly-contested debate, their long-running pandemic-induced fast from the Althing having, finally, come to an end.

This was, after all, the first time anyone had spoken at an Althing since February 2020.

And the panel had it all to play for. An initial show of hands showed six people for the motion, nine against and 11 undecided.

Speaking for the motion “We should bring back rationing” was Kevin Learmonth and Robina Barton.

Mr Learmonth recalled the early days of the pandemic, when supermarkets were rationing products and restrictions on travel were introduced.

Rationing, he said, was not merely to restrict, or hold back, but a measure to ensure everyone had a “fair slice of the cake”.

He called for a change of thinking from the present scenario where oil and gas companies make “record profits,” yet people go cold and hungry.

But opposing the motion in her debut Althing appearance as a speaker was Barbara Fraser, who railed against the idea of government control.

She foresaw a scenario where rationing would open up a black market, where “secret midnight assignations” would take place in every quarry hole – and not for the reasons they used to be, either.

Moreover, she said she would be among those seeking profit from such an arrangement – earning her the nickname “Black Market Babsie” by the time the night was out.

Supporting Mr Learmonth, however, was Robina Barton, who questioned whether people really did know what they should, or should not, be eating, given the rates of obesity and other widespread public health problems.

She pointed to a growing global population, and the climate emergency which required an emergency measure.

SIC councillor Dennis Leask, however, said he saw education rather than enforcement as key.

“Rationing only works when there is a genuine shortage,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s not rationing – it’s prohibition”.

But at the final vote, the audience swung in favour of the proposers, voting 17 for the motion, seven against – and only one undecided.


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