Social clubs in Falkirk face an uncertain future

Social clubs provide a space for people to socialise and celebrate but they are struggling with new laws and red tape
Social clubs provide a space for people to socialise and celebrate but they are struggling with new laws and red tape

Social clubs face an uncertain future as membership levels decline and volunteers are forced to deal with increasing amounts of red tape.

Changes in the law such as the smoking ban and the reduced drink driving limit have also taken their toll and committee members say they don’t know how much more they can take.

Robert McTaggart is president of Camelon Juniors Social Club. He took over the role a year ago and has been involved in the club for the past 19 years.

He said: “In 19 years there have been huge changes.

“You used to have to make sure you were in the club before 6 p.m. at the weekends or you wouldn’t get a seat but now we don’t even open every day because there just isn’t the demand.

“I think the legal changes and cheap supermarket drink prices are to blame. It’s changed the community and they don’t come out to socialise like they used to.”

Many pubs and clubs were worried about the smoking ban which was introduced in Scotland in 2006 and Robert agrees that didn’t help.

“Smokers don’t want to have to stand outside in the cold. They can drink their cheap supermarket drink in the house and smoke inside too.

“I wish younger people would consider joining the club – there is a great sense of community and we offer very competitive drinks prices.

“All our bar staff are volunteers and we get a lot of private functions. If it wasn’t for that, I don’t think we could go on.”

Jan Andrews is the treasurer and secretary at Grangemouth’s Railway Staff Association for Scotland.

She has been involved with the club since 1973 and this year the 84-year-old from Grangemouth plans to retire from the committee.

She recently applied to Falkirk Council’s Licensing Board to extend the club’s opening hours and serve food from the Barrie Place premises.

The board granted the licence and the club hopes to be serving meals from early 2016, once they have purchased the equipment and have all the necessary paperwork.

Jan admits it can be a struggle to make sure the club has all the necessary licences.

She said: “I’m 84 and don’t use a computer so that makes things more difficult, I do it all with writing.

“I found it difficult to keep myself right with all the licences at first, but I’m more used to it now.

“It is a lot of work, especially for volunteers. You need a licence for everything, from private functions to kids. We even had to apply for a licence to get a bouncy castle in the hall.”

In recent years the area has seen many social clubs close their doors.

Last year the Polmont British Legion shut and Castings Club closed in 2012. Grangemouth Dockers Club and Grangemouth Rangers Supporters Club have also gone in the past few years.

Jan thinks the club is faring better than most and credits their inclusive attitude.

“We have 700 members and we can easily fill the place when we have cabaret nights.

“The members are good, and come in regularly to show their support, although I admit that since the drink driving laws changed, we are getting less people in for a quick drink after their work.”

“When someone new comes in , I make a point of going over and saying hello, finding out more about them and making them feel welcome.

“There is a community spirit within the club, we all look out for each other. You don’t get that in a standard pub and it’s a real shame so many clubs are struggling.”