I'VE heard it mooted that in the beginning God created alcohol so that ugly people could have a love life.

The parable goes that the forbidden fruit growing in the Garden of Eden was actually cider apples, although it's not clear who needed to down the most cider, Adam or Eve.

Whatever the truth of that, one of the several other side effects of booze is not in doubt: namely its ability to make otherwise nice, sensible folk turn ugly.

I suspect, though, that no amount of the hard stuff could ever make Alex Salmond appear even remotely attractive to his critics. Our pugnacious First Minister is Mr Marmite — much like Nigel Farage, or even Jeremy Clarkson — in that you either love him or hate him.

And don't the Unionist parties positively detest the SNP and UKIP, and for very obvious and sound electoral reasons, of course, not to mention the way the Bruise Brothers delight in rattling their cages.

Every Alex Salmond comment is guaranteed to incite and unite the opposition at Holyrood, whether he's praising Russian president Vladimir Putin (they would prefer he praised Maggie Thatcher or Tony Blair?) or allegedly labelling Scotland "a nation of drunks."

I say allegedly because as a journalist for 40-odd years I can spin a story with the best of them, but any alternative interpretation of what Salmond actually said misses the point.

Amid all their feigned national affront over Salmond's comments in a GQ magazine interview, his political rivals are crowing about alcohol consumption having fallen in Scotland.

Surely they're not suggesting we don't have a problem?

It must have escaped their tiny minds that Scotland not only remains top of the UK alcohol league, but also boasts among the highest alcohol consumption in the world.

Yes, our intake has fallen, but we still drink more than we did 10 years ago — and almost 25% more than our English neighbours.

Glasgow is the sick man of Europe, with rampant obesity and heart disease and with two-fifths of Weegies suffering liver problems.

We have anti-social behaviour, road accidents, crime, lost working hours, family breakdown, child abuse and child neglect, domestic violence, murder.

The demon drink is the common denominator in all that mayhem.

Doctors say the NHS is becoming paralysed - or more likely paralytic? - dealing with society's alcohol problems, but the drinks industry carries more clout than the medical experts when it comes to deciding health policy.

The Societal Cost of Alcohol Misuse in Scotland, a weighty tome produced by the Scottish Government, puts that cost at £3.6billion. And those were 2007 figures.

Alcohol abuse was estimated to cost Glasgow almost £365m back in 2010-11. You would hardly think either figure has gone down as booze has become even cheaper.

Scottish Labour and the Tories may crow, but they can take no credit for any decrease.

The Scottish Government tried to ban off-licences from selling to under-21s.

The other parties blocked it.

They tried to bring in minimum pricing. The rest blocked it.

Retailers still sell booze as a loss leader, and 60% sold in off-licences and supermarkets already costs less than that 50p-a-unit minimum price target.

Like Scottish Labour and the Tories, I don't have any answers, but alcohol abuse can't be controlled by price alone.

It's a cultural problem, as deep and divisive as West of Scotland sectarianism and just as surely will take more than a generation to solve.

And while it may be more prevalent among the more deprived in society, behind the lace curtains in every leafy suburb plenty of corks are being popped.

We may not be "a nation of drunks" but we are drinking way much more than is good for us.

LONDON is bleeding the rest of the UK dry. Russian oligarchs, Arab sheikhs and Chinese tycoons have made it the world's most expensive address, with a record set last week for an unfurnished flat - a staggering £140million.

Estate agents Savills calculates that the value of property in just 10 of London's 32 boroughs equals the total value of property in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined.

They say the ripple effect is a "wealth gap" spreading across the UK, but it's already hit Scotland, where the richest 10% of households have 900 times the accumulated wealth of the poorest 10%.

The sooner we open the gap between us and the London fatcats the better.

GORDON BROWN says his native Scotland would be an economic basket case outwith the UK.

So do we believe anonymous "friends" that he would like to be the first Labour PM of a newly independent Scotland?

I suspect it's actually a ploy by the Bitter Together campaign to frighten us into voting No.