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annthornIn the 1951 girls’ career novel Front Page Ann Thorne by Rosamond Bertram, our eponymous heroine is in a bit of a scrape. Caught up in an international stamp-theft scam, she has been kidnapped and is being held prisoner in cellar in a seaside town.

Suddenly her captor appears with succour. “I brought you some cigarettes,” he said. “I quite understand how, if one is a smoker, one craves the fragrant weed.”

Ann undergoes various humiliations in the cellar – she is tied up, gagged, slapped and generally mistreated. But almost the most shocking thing to our 21st-century eyes is that it’s expected that a fictional teenage role model in a children’s book should not only be a smoker, but should be craving tobacco.

Times have obviously changed, and children’s fiction with them. It’s unthinkable that Harry Potter should spark up behind the broomstick sheds with Ron and Hermione, and quite right too. If children’s books reflect the era in which they are written, then their treatment of smoking is presumably a barometer for society’s views.

Reporter Ann Thorne (aged 19 by the time of this book) was a modern young woman with a career, living in a snazzy flat in London and travelling the world by aeroplane; smoking cigarettes was a kind of shorthand for relaxation, smartness, being à la mode. Just ten years later, however, the tide was definitely turning.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Smoking and health, a groundbreaking report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), which was the first major piece of work linking smoking with lung cancer, bronchitis and coronary heart disease. Using the research of Sir Richard Doll and Sir Austin Bradford Hill, the report made the case for a raft of public health measures to reduce cigarette smoking and called on doctors to advise patients on illnesses caused and worsened by smoking. It also called for doctors to help patients to quit.

Predictably, the report caused a bit of a media storm, according to the RCP’s own website. There was “an ambivalent, even hostile response from some parts of the media, government and society,” the college notes. Today there is little argument with its conclusions.

But there is still a way to go. To mark the anniversary, the college held an event to hear from researchers and others about what will have to happen to make tobacco a quaint relic from the past, rather than a scourge of the present. I was particularly touched by a comment from Sir Richard Thompson, the RCP president. “I hope,” he writes, “that in another 50 years, smoking, like slavery, will have passed into history.”

There has been huge progress in the last half-century. This has come partly from top-down action – such as the highly successful ban on smoking in public places and other policies at a national level – measures from the so-called nanny state. But altered cultural expectation has also played into this.

Change has been obvious even in the last couple of decades: like Ann Thorne’s office in the 1950s, smoking was the norm in my first newsroom in 1990 (technically it was banned, but people on the newsdesk smoked, so that made it OK); there is no way that would happen now. And of course pubs and restaurants are smoke-free, but so are most people’s houses – even houses of smokers.

And expectations are different: maybe I lead a sheltered life, but I’m now slightly surprised when I meet middle-class, middle-aged smokers – it just seems a bit weird, although it used to be unremarkable or perhaps even the other way round.

So we’ve come a long way – but, as the RCP, ASH Scotland and doubtless many others warn us, there’s still room for improvement. Sure, the statistics look good: back in 1961, 70 per cent of men and 43 per cent of women smoked. In Scotland today, 26 per cent of men and 23 per cent of women smoke – and, encouragingly, smoking among 13–15-year-olds is now at its lowest level in 30 years.

Those figures sound encouraging but still mean that around one in four adults smokes; go to any town centre, large or small, and it feels as though this is an underestimate. Living in the sticks as I do, a trip to Stirling (our nearest metropolis) is blighted by clouds of tobacco which intensify outside stations and pubs.

So how will we reach Sir Richard Thompson’s utopia where smoking is as unthinkable as slavery? Probably the answer is more of the same – more legislation, such as the ban on vending machines and point-of-sale displays which are already in the pipeline; and, with a fair wind, further steps such as introducing plain packaging should be next.

We also need more of the same in terms of cultural change, and I actually think we might be getting there. Several years ago, shortly after the release of The Royal Tenenbaums, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, whose character smoked most alluringly, I heard world-leading scientist David Lane speaking on how to tackle tobacco. His feeling then was that it was hard to talk girls out of smoking because it was seen as glamorous. His gist was that public health messages were beaten “by Gwyneth Paltrow in a fur coat”.

In contrast, if a character lights up on television or in films during 2012, it’s likely to be a signifier not so much of glamour but of being a bit of a loser. In Coronation Street, for example, it’s people such as alcoholic bookie Peter Barlow and his stressed-out stepmother Deirdre who turn to tobacco. Even in Mad Men, where smoking is made to look impossibly beautiful, it’s done knowingly and with a strong health message. Had the programme actually been made in the 1960s when it was set, do you think that Don Draper would really have written to the New York Times explaining why Sterling Cooper Draper would no longer be taking tobacco accounts?

It’s the same in cinema. In the 2005 film Good Night, and Good Luck, set in a 1950s television newsroom, the characters smoked willy-nilly. One of the DVD “extras”, however, described how many of the original cohort of journalists had died of tobacco-related disease.

Perhaps that would have been Ann Thorne’s fate. She would be 80 years old now – assuming she had lived this long and that she wasn’t, well, fictional. She might have escaped from the stamp thieves, but would she have been so lucky against tobacco? Provided, that is, she didn’t read the RCP report and quit.

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The Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP <em>Picture: World Economic Forum</em>

The Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP Picture: World Economic Forum

The following is the text of the Andrew John Williamson Memorial Lecture for 2011, given at Stirling University earlier this evening by the Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP. The lecture is entitled “A Better Nation? – A Personal Reflection on Scotland’s Future”.

Good evening. It is a genuine privilege to be here to deliver the Andrew John Williamson Memorial Lecture and I am delighted that Andrew’s mother Joyce is here with us this evening. And can I also say what a pleasure it is to be here at Stirling University.

As I ruminated upon a title for this evening’s lecture my first thought – given that Dunsinane lies only a few miles up the road in Perthshire – was to ask “Stands Scotland where it did?”

Yet a moment’s reflection was sufficient to answer the question posed by Shakespeare.

And there could be few better settings in which to discuss the recent developments and future course of Scottish politics than Stirling – the seat where in 1997 Michael Forsyth played the role of General Custer in the Scottish Conservatives’ last stand, but which then passed from Labour control at the 2007 Holyrood elections – not back to the Tories, but rather into the hands of the SNP, narrowly then but earlier this year with a majority of nearly 6,000 and almost 50 per cent of the total votes cast. Nowhere illustrates more starkly the changes in Scottish politics that have taken place over recent years.

Last May we witnessed the election of a majority government for the first time in the twelve year history of Scottish devolution. And if we take them at their word, the historic victory of the Scottish National Party will ensure that the issue of a referendum on independence has now come to the fore.

And, accordingly, it is to the issue of Scotland’s political future and Scottish Labour’s place therein that I want to direct my remarks this evening.

Tonight I want to explore some of the issues that I believe will inform the necessary public discourse and debate that will precede the choice Scotland makes in such a referendum.

But let me say just a word in passing specifically on the referendum. As someone who knows how to run a campaign, one of my real concerns is that the referendum debate may become simply a fight between William Wallace and the bogey man.

Because in a time of choosing, our duty is greater, and our responsibility is heavier.

This debate demands a different quality of imagination.

“Obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans” must yield to a debate not just about our identity, but about our ideals. About what kind of nation we are, and what kind of nation we want to become.

Our fellow citizens deserve a debate worthy of a momentous choice that will help write the history of this generation.

And before the heat generated by that forthcoming battle obscures the light, I want to take the opportunity afforded by tonight’s lecture to offer some personal reflections on those forces, far from the headlines, that will shape our choice.

Let me say, first, what this lecture is not. It is not an exercise in accounting. It is not an attempt to weigh the costs and expense involved in establishing the apparatus of a separate Scottish state and disentangling ourselves from the partnership that is the United Kingdom.

There will be time enough, and no doubt plenty of opportunities, for such evidence to be set before the people of Scotland in the months and years ahead.

As someone who was centrally involved in devising Labour’s “Divorce is a Expensive Business” campaign for the first elections to Holyrood in 1999, I am not unaware of the importance of such evidence, nor do I resile from the fears I still have about the damage that Scotland’s exit from the United Kingdom would do, most of all, to Scotland.

But I said after the 1999 election that it was the last time I thought we could run such a campaign, and yet it is surely now clear that in the decade that followed, too little was done by my party to tell a different story of possibility about Scotland.

In 1999 we identified what would have been the wrong path for Scotland, but thereafter we didn’t do enough to describe the right path by which to achieve a better nation.

We all know Labour needed to show humility after our election defeats. But we also have an obligation to think – and to re-engage. My work observing and participating in democratic politics both at home and abroad over the last decade has taught me many things.

And one of them is that, in policy, statistics matter, but in politics, stories matter too.

Because stories help shape what is hidden in plain sight all around us – what we judge has meaning, and what we judge doesn’t. And it is through stories that we provoke the feelings of hope that are at the heart of participating in a progressive society – the care, concern, and compassion that has always underpinned the will to act.

Why do I make that claim? Because our emotions are the very foundation of reason – because they tell each of us what to value. Despite Plato’s description of reason and emotion as two horses pulling in the opposite direction, the truth is that how we feel about what we know is the deepest way in which we add meaning and significance to whatever information we have at our disposal – it is how what we know becomes real and rooted in who we are.

This should have come as no surprise to a graduate of the University of Edinburgh such as myself.

Because the writings of David Hume remind us that reason is often weak and sentiments are strong.

Perhaps I should just have listened more intently to my father’s sermons. For the Church, not just here in Scotland but around the globe, has understood for 2,000 years that we live our lives by parables.

It was the Church that recognised 450 years ago that education was the basis of each of us fulfilling our potential or writing our own story and so set out to put a school in every parish – an act of public service that shaped our nations identity and led to an Enlightenment period that was to spill out over Europe and beyond that challenged the very way we see the world.

So it is perhaps appropriate that I begin my exploration of these issues this evening by quoting the words of the Austrian philosopher, priest and social critic, Ivan Illich.

In an interview about one of his works, he stated: “Neither revolution not reformation can ultimately change a society, rather you must tell a new powerful tale, one so persuasive that it sweeps away the old myths and becomes the preferred story, one so inclusive that it gathers all the bits of our past and our present into a coherent whole, one that even shines some light into the future so that we can take the next step forward. If you want to change society, then you have to tell an alternative story.”

Ponder those words: “You have to tell an alternative story.”

Of course the stories we tell about ourselves, our communities and our nation are thankfully not the exclusive domain of politicians: writers, musicians, poets and artists help shape our sense of self and also our sense of our nation’s story.

The case I want to make tonight is that we need and deserve a better story about Scotland and its possibilities: one which does more justice to our sense of potential than either of the narratives that have come to dominate our political discourse in recent times.

And I want to suggest this evening that we need a broader, more inclusive, more generous story if we are to be a better nation, and that to be a better nation does not demand that we become a separate nation.

At the moment, we risk years of debate defined by polarising positions not shared by most of us in Scotland. On one hand there is a story about Scotland’s future distorted by the continued need to assert our differentness to the point of denying what we hold in common in these islands.

On the other hand is a story that draws too much from our past which has allowed the misconception to develop that any acknowledgement of Britishness somehow seeks to diminish the pride we feel in the distinctiveness of Scotland.

Neither account, it seems to me, is adequate for who we are as Scots, what we believe, or what we have it in ourselves to become in the years ahead.

And I would argue there is a real urgency in developing that better story, so that in the years ahead we don’t squander our energies on proving our difference, rather than improving our nation.

Let me draw on my personal experience to explain what I mean.

In the Scotland in which I grew up, in the 70s, 80s and 90s, our national story was widely shared. The distinction between patriotism and nationalism was widely understood and accepted. Those of us who shouted proudly – if often forlornly – for Scotland in Hampden or Murrayfield felt no compulsion to embrace political nationalism.

The villain of the narrative was the insensitive, arrogant and selfish politics embodied by Margaret Thatcher, the legacy of which still condemns the Conservative party in the eyes of most Scots, more than 20 years since she stood down as prime minister.

The narrative was reflective of Scotland undergoing the forced removal and restructuring of the industries and communities, from Upper Clyde Shipbuilders to Ravenscraig, from Linwood to Methil and the coalfields that had shaped Scotland’s sense of itself for decades.

So as a student when I joined my compatriots in protest against Thatcherism outside New College when she came to deliver her infamous “Sermon on the Mound” in 1988, or in support of the Scottish parliament in George Square, and the Meadows in 1992, we were reflecting what John Smith described so well as “the settled will of the Scottish people”.

At that time if felt like a struggle for Scotland’s soul. As William Mcllvanney described it in his 1987 lecture at the SNP conference: “We have never, until now, had a government so determined to unpick the very fabric of Scottish life and make it over into something quite different. We have never had a government so glibly convinced of its own rightness that it demands that one of the oldest nations in Europe should give itself a shake and change utterly its sense of self.

“If we allow her [Mrs Thatcher] to continue she will remove from the word Scottish any meaning other than geographical.

“We are now so threatened by a government implacably hostile to the ideas that have nourished Scotland’s deepest sense of itself that we must have to protect ourselves. We will either defend our identity or lose it – there is no other choice.”

And the heroes of this story, for me, and many other Scots, were the generation of Labour politicians who gave voice not only to our concerns but also to our hopes: Dewar, Smith, Brown and Cook.

They held out the possibility of a better Scottish nation – by their commitment to constitutional change certainly, but even more by their shared commitment to social and economic change and solidarity with the poor, even when that was not an easy path.

As Democratic Socialists, they never saw a contradiction in working for a better Scotland and a better Britain.

And they were a generation true to their word. For despite the taunts that the Labour Party “couldn’t deliver a pizza, never mind a parliament” in fact, we did deliver Scotland’s parliament.

While the Nationalists stood aside from the Constitutional Convention – something they now seek to airbrush out of their history – I am forever proud that one of the first acts of the incoming Labour government was to set out what became the Scotland Act giving birth to Scotland’s first democratic parliament.

But Labour in government delivered not just a Scottish parliament but also the Human Rights Act; a reformed House of Lords; civil partnerships; new maternity and paternity rights; new rights to join a trade union. But not just that: a minimum wage, record levels of investment in our schools and hospitals, record levels of employment, a decade of economic growth; the Minimum Income Guarantee and the Working Families’ Tax Credit.

Now of course, I am proud of the many good things achieved by the Labour government in which I was honoured to serve. And I am also proud of much that the Scottish Labour Party achieved in government at Holyrood from 1999 to 2007 – not just establishing Smart, Successful Scotland, or the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency, but in my own community building the new schools that have literally transformed the learning environment for our local children.

But these achievements, important thought they are, were not sufficient to mask an underlying difficulty with the story Scottish Labour was telling about itself and about Scotland. We rewrote the statute book but we did not, alas, rewrite the story.

And that familiar, unchanged story we told came under sustained pressure in recent years for a variety of reasons.

First, the familiar villain of Thatcherism, in time, moved into history. I still remember 22 November 1990 – the day Margaret Thatcher resigned. It was the week before the by-election of my predecessor as MP for Paisley and I was campaigning around the town with Donald Dewar.

And when the momentous news of Margaret Thatcher’s resignation was announced by Donald through a megaphone to the children of St Fergus’ Primary School, who were out on their playtime, the whole playground started jumping for joy.

That’s the measure of the grip Thatcher held on our collective imagination by the early 90s. But there is an additional point: the post-war industrial Scotland Thatcher did so much to dismantle also began to move into history.

As Scottish Labour we were, at times, slow to identify ourselves with the underlying but profound changes in the Scottish economy. Labour’s politics, formed in the 70s and 80s, were those of struggle against decline.

Too late in the years before 2007 did we recognise that our policies in government, while not fully eradicating poverty, had created a more diverse and modern economy – reliant on banks, yes, but strong in bioscience, leading Europe in energy, from oil and gas to renewables, and with modern manufacturing and computer games software thriving.

The SNP saw that economic strength and sought to annex the sense of confidence it generated to their definition of Scotland and its destiny.

But these changes also meant that some of the old Labour “hymns” were increasingly unfamiliar to an audience increasingly without personal knowledge of the tunes.

The attachment to and insistence upon these old hymns reflected the fact that the Scottish Party, largely by reason of the unique national element in our politics, never really felt it needed to be “New” Labour.

Indeed it is arguable that the process of “modernisation” might not, in fact, have been required to defeat the Tories in Scotland, but this comfort in old orthodoxies contributed to the party’s disorientation and vulnerability when we came under attack from a different direction, and from a more nimble opponent.

More broadly, the resurgent Scottish pride and confidence, in part resulting from a decade of economic growth from 1997 to 2007, at times left Scottish Labour looking uneasy.

Why? In part the coincidence of traditional symbols of and repositories for working class identity – such as trade union membership and large scale industrial workplaces – were declining, while simultaneously there remained a strength of national pride, reaffirmed in everything from the music of the Proclaimers’ 500 Miles, sung on the terraces at Hampden, to Eddi Reader’s musical reinterpretation of Burns’ poetry and song.

The repository of emotion for many Scots moved from class-based institutions to national institutions. And while the love and respect for the BBC, the NHS, the armed forces and the royal family have stayed strong, other distinctively Scottish institutions grew in the Scottish people’s affections.

Finally, unpopular aspects of both old and New Labour combined to reduce our support. Old Labour was still associated with a sense that “Labour runs everything” from Westminster to the local council, and regrettably that stewardship was not always viewed as moving with the times.

New Labour, on the other hand, despite all its achievements, came to be associated with the conflict in Iraq in 2003, the revulsion at the MP’s expenses scandal, and the wearinesss of ideas born of successive periods of government in Westminster and Holyrood.

The combined impact of these perceived weaknesses caused many to turn away from our party.

So, by 2011, how has that story played out? It played out in Scottish Labour warning of the risks of Thatcherism decades after she had left office, and in a campaign that suggested knife crime, important though tackling it is, was the key concern of an electorate that, in truth, had many other concerns.

This was a story that sought to draw what little emotional power it could muster not from Scotland’s future, but from Scotland’s past.

And in a decisive rejection at the ballot box, in the language of the terraces, we were well and truly “gubbed”. The party which, on the day the Scottish parliament was first elected, could claim without contradiction to be the only true National Party of Scotland, within 12 years found itself supported by only one in eight Scottish voters.

And what of the winners of that election?

The harsh truth for Labour is that the Nationalist’s victory in May did not derive exclusively from their approach to national identity. It reflected differences in personnel, resources and campaigning approaches. It also reflected that those who voted for them had judged them fairly competent and broadly aligned with their values, in their stewardship of government over the previous four years.

Just as importantly, Labour, in opposition was seen as too often concerned only with opposition for its own sake. Too many Scots judged us to have complained in unspecified ways about the SNP’s failure to deliver, without articulating a clear enough alternative story and account of Scotland’s possibilities.

That weakness – for which we share a collective responsibility – allowed the SNP to deflect criticism of their record over the preceding four years in two ways: first to attribute the failures of the Scottish government to the existence and impact of the British government; and, second, to attribute their failures to their status as a minority government.

There is however, one positive I do take from last May’s result, which you might think a strange thing for a Labour politician to say.

I do not believe that, at root, Scotland was voting for independence. In that I believe I am joined by Alex Salmond who surely wouldn’t be putting off a referendum if he thought that was the case.

But what I believe Scots were saying is that they want Scotland to be a better nation. They feel pride in Scotland and want new possibilities for its people. And they didn’t feel last May that Labour was offering that better way forward.

But this analysis of our defeat sits alongside the fact that the SNP have always had a different national narrative based on the desirability and indeed inevitability of separation from the rest of Britain. And the SNP’s victory in May means that this narrative will now be central to the debate about Scottish politics for the immediate years to come.

Of course, over time, that narrative has changed, and evolved but always with the same destination – independence – and always the same villain: Britain.

So in the 1960s, with the advent of the modern SNP, the case for separation was made on the basis of our relative economic deprivation. Then in the 1970s the case for separation was made on the basis that “It’s Scotland’s oil”. Most recently, or at least prior to the banking crisis of 2008, the case has been advanced on the ability of Scotland to join “the Arc of Prosperity” of Ireland, Iceland and Norway.

In fact, this narrative always struggled to capture more than a minority of Scottish support.

That is not to dispute the scale of their victory last May: Labour lost big and consequently the Nationalists won big. It is to suggest that by 2007, the Nationalists were the beneficiaries of the weakening in support for Labour, and the diminishing of the emotive power of the key events and individuals that had previously sustained Labour’s story and indeed support.

Over recent years, Nationalists have sought to construct a new and less narrowly drawn narrative suggesting that they alone truly have the interests of Scotland at heart and that they alone are powered by a desire for a better nation.

That is why, with what I would describe as “Mandelsonian” discipline, they parrot the line about “London Labour”. It is spin designed to disqualify and delegitimise a broad swathe of Scottish opinion that does not share their agenda.

The strength of that less narrowly drawn narrative advanced in recent years has been its ability to tap into the strong sense of Scottish patriotism. Buoyed by years of economic growth, and the establishment of a Scottish parliament, the SNP have worked hard to try and capture the sense of possibility that in a previous generation was held by the Labour Party. The SNP saw the economic strength and sought to annex the sense of confidence to their definition of Scotland and its destiny.

In parallel, this new Nationalist narrative has sought to suggest a sense of inevitability about separation. Perhaps the most eloquent expression of this was in James Robertson’s book And the Land Lay Still, the winner of the 2010 Saltire Society Scottish Book of the Year – and, incidentally, reportedly Alex Salmond’s favourite book of last year. Yet while an enjoyable read and impressive work, it offers a partial rather than a convincing account of Scotland’s political struggles over recent decades.

As Ian Smart, a former president of the Law Society of Scotland put it recently in a trenchant critique: “Mr Robertson’s book purports to be a history of Scotland since the 1950s albeit through the mechanism of fiction. It portrays a country ill at ease with itself; denied its proper place in the world through the devices of the English and unable to recognise its true destiny until these issues are resolved…

“For me the political history of Scotland, during the period of which he writes, was about so much more than Scotland. The central character of the book goes to Edinburgh University in 1972 yet the only mention of Vietnam is to compare its struggle to that of Scotland (truly!);

“Allende’s overthrow is worthy of a single (and background) pub exchange; the struggle against apartheid which, while I was contemporaneously at university, albeit in Glasgow, united students of any sort of progressive opinion doesn’t rate a single mention.

“To read this book, insofar as it purports to be a fictional political history of Scotland, you’d have thought that all that was going on consisted of people sitting about bemoaning the constitution. It most certainly was not.”

Yet the other part of the Nationalists’ narrative is its exclusivity: according to this narrative at its most unattractive, only nationalists are true Scots, or its softer version – all true Scottish patriots are inevitably Scottish nationalists.

For decades, mainstream Scottish opinion has accepted and reflected the truth that you can be a patriot without being a nationalist. It is the nationalists who have struggled with this sense that Scotland’s story does not exclude but includes the shared and interwoven stories of these islands.

Why else would Alex Salmond have once said that he wanted Scotland to be good neighbours to England rather than surly lodgers?

What he fails to understand is that the United Kingdom is the house that Scotland built with our neighbours – and you can’t be a lodger in your own house.

The Scottish people have always had the power to determine our own destiny. And there has always been more than one way to use that power.

In fact, the notion of Scottish patriotism has changed significantly over time. At the 19th century height of Empire, an Empire in which – as Tom Devine reminds us – the Scots were not impotent anti-imperialists but instead, for good or ill, active participants, you could have thought that only unionists were true patriots.

This was an analysis challenged, not by the emergence of Scottish national sentiment but rather by the rise of the Labour movement and the radical claim for equality; equality first for working people but then, in time, for women and for people of all races. This was the beginning of the challenge to the old unionism based only on the deferential attitude to ancient institutions: monarchy, army, parliament. An old unionism that proved inadequate to meet the challenges of modernity.

For myself, I remain of the view that the United Kingdom, this oldest of political unions, embodies a quintessentially modern idea – and one I like and believe in: that diversity can be a strength and not a weakness.

I like the idea that on these small rainy islands of the North Atlantic we share risks and rewards in a multicultural, multiethnic and multinational union. A shared space of ideas, identities and industries.

And I also continue to believe that across Britain we gain from common services and would be diminished without them; that we achieve more working together than working apart; that unity, out of diversity, gives us strength; that solidarity, the shared endeavour of working and cooperating together, not separation is the idea of the future and the idealism worth celebrating .

So, in truth, I am uncomfortable with and unattracted to a politics that draws a substantial part of its emotional power from a constant assertion of “difference”. And I bridle at the suggestion of separateness as the essential attribute of our national story.

It takes only a few moments to read the hate filled outpourings of the so called “Cyber-Nats” on the threads of the Scotsman and other websites to appreciate this point: With their claims of treason, attacks on “London Labour” and general intolerance to everybody and anybody who does not share their outlook. To my mind, these nationalists challenge the very suggestion of a more pluralist, open, discursive politics if ever their party were to prevail in its primary purpose.

Instead, they remind me of Alasdair Gray’s evocative description in his greatest novel, Lanark, of “our own wee hard men [who] hammer Scotland down to the same dull level as themselves.”

But I do recognise that the power and the weakness of this Nationalist narrative comes from its duality: on one hand caressing an unhealthy sense of victimhood through its constant assertion that Britain is what is holding Scotland back, and on the other hand asserting pride and possibility for Scotland.

Why do I find such a narrative unsatisfying even while I have to acknowledge its appeal to some sections of the electorate?

I don’t believe that rightly asserting our own distinct identity – indeed identities – is an alternative to finding points of shared values and interdependence.

But it is also that this determination to assert difference doesn’t accord with some of my own deepest convictions – and not simply that many years ago in Edinburgh I happened to meet and fall in love with an English woman who is now my wife. I would never want my children to choose whether they were citizens of Scotland or England.

It’s not the choice of futures I’d wish to put before them. It is not the choice that so many Scots or so many English people, would want their children; their nephews and nieces, even their sisters or brothers in law to have to make.

And it’s not that I hark back to some lost British patriotism of the 1950s. I am too young to remember those days and in temperament, and in personal politics, I am more interested in the future than harking back to a past whose values and prejudices few of us would share today.

There are other and deeper reasons than my admiration of Britain and what it represents that has always made me distrustful of nationalism.

As a democratic socialist, ideals have shaped my sense of politics more than identity. I am, and always have been, much more interested in abolishing poverty than abolishing Britain. A fundamental belief in human equality is the core of my politics, more than a fundamental belief in national difference.

My work around the world as international development secretary and now shadow foreign secretary has taught me something else – that one of the most fundamental struggles of modernity is between, on the one hand, those who believe our differences are more important than what unites us and, on the other, those of us who’s preference and moral lodestar is our common humanity.

That is the fundamental tenet of my politics, and helps explain why I am distrustful of a politics that draws its energy from gleeful assertions of difference rather than expressions of cooperation.

My theme this evening is that our story matters – as individuals, as families, as communities and as nations. So let me share with you part of my own family’s story.

My parents married in Glasgow in 1959. Four days later they flew from Prestwick to New York, where my father had gained a scholarship for postgraduate study at Union Theological Seminary.

The following Easter, in 1960, they joined a group of fellow students in travelling from New York to Raleigh, North Carolina, to attend a conference.

There they queued to hear a young Baptist preacher – and were spat at by white passers-by for their trouble.

The conference was the inaugural conference of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The young Baptist preacher was Martin Luther King.

After this encounter, the theology of Martin Luther King had a huge impact on my parents and, in time, on the values they sought to pass on to their children – and that I seek to pass on to mine.

Now the reason I share this story is that what King described as our “inter-connectedness” still shapes how I see the world.

Let his own, far more eloquent, words speak for themselves: ‎”As long as there is poverty in the world I can never be rich even if I have a billion dollars. As long as diseases are rampant and millions of people in this world cannot expect to live thirty years I can never be totally healthy even if I just got a good check-up at the Mayo Clinic. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the way our world is made. No individual or nation can stand our boasting of being independent. We are interdependent.”

In that concern with our common humanity I don’t simply draw inspiration from religious teaching but also from modern science. In recent years some of the most talented scientists on earth have achieved the mapping of the human genome.

Of course this has opened new possibilities for both science and medicine. But it has also revealed something I think is vital to our understanding of politics. The sequencing of the human genome has confirmed that all human beings are genetically more than 99.9 per cent the same.

As Bill Clinton put it, “while our differences matter, our common humanity matters more.”

Yet here in Scotland, our political discourse is increasingly defined by difference: Each and every day the SNP government and its spokespeople seek to challenge and undermine the cultural and political claim of those of us who do not share their determination to divide Britain, asserting that our differences matter more than that which we hold in common. Paradoxically, this process is promoted as entirely positive about Scotland’s future – but any disagreement is roundly condemned as “negative”.

The SNP have now pledged a referendum within this parliament to let Scotland decide. I do not fear the people’s verdict, but in the meantime my party has a great deal of work to do in the coming months and years. That work must begin by recognising that in the years ahead, Scottish Labour’s political purpose has to be built around the future possibilities for Scotland, not the past wrongs done to Scotland.

So what would that politics of possibility, that story of a better nation sound like?

It would start, to my mind, with a determination to uphold our common humanity, the common weal – and give expression to the feelings of care, concern and commitment which we seek in others and seek to uphold in ourselves – rather than assert and reinforce our difference.

For a democratic socialist like me it would begin from a belief in equality – and it would uphold the timeless truth that we achieve more together than we can achieve alone.

It would be a story that starts with the condition of Scotland: a nation of great strengths but also very real problems.

It would be a story that set at its heart the idea of building One Scotland. A nation in which greater equality was not just our aim, and our metric, but was, in fact, our achievement.

And surely today one of the clearest tests of our commitment to Scotland’s future is what we do for our children.

In 2011, the terrible truth remains: one in five of Scotland’s children live in poverty.

According to Children First, a quarter of Scotland’s children are missing out on basics such as proper winter clothing, after school activities and good, nutritious food – the basics we take for granted for our own children.

Worklessness is a problem but so are low wages – with around 25,000 children in Scotland being in severe poverty despite at least one adult in the home going out to work.

Of course this is not a problem confined to Scotland – a report by UNICEF in 2007 examined the effects of many decades of growing child poverty across the UK, and painted a stark picture of the deprivation, poor relationships with parents, and vulnerability to the risks from alcohol, drugs and unsafe sex suffered by too many children growing up today.

Labour in office did make a difference – using tax credits to lift millions of children out of poverty, and legislating for new rights like longer maternity leave and flexible working.

Some of that work is being undone by a Tory-led Coalition government in London, but it has also been left to wither on the vine by the SNP government in Edinburgh.

Perhaps the deepest and most abiding inequality that scars Scotland is the most basic – the stark differences in life expectancy. A boy born in parts of Paisley today will, on average, live five fewer years than a boy born here in Stirling. Closing that gap is one of the hardest, but most essential tasks we face.

Half of this difference in mortality is simply from the effects of smoking. Labour’s smoking ban was the start, but we could learn from other countries. Learning how to use what we know from neuroscience about how habits and addictions are made and broken.

But it’s not just smoking. Drink plays a major part too. I sense that Labour’s past rejection of the SNP’s proposals, however well justified in terms of the weakness of the specific policy, was judged by some voters as reflecting an unwillingness to tackle heavy drinking and rise to the challenge of making a better Scotland.

In itself, minimum alcohol pricing is no simple solution to a complex and deeply culturally rooted problem. Anyone observing the agile responses of supermarkets and wine emporia knows that. But while we can challenge the policy, or better improve the policy, as an MP for a constituency where each week I see some of the consequences of the abuse of alcohol, I understand the urging of the public health clinicians that government act to tackle these problems.

Because despite the fact that many Scots today live long, full and prosperous lives, not least in some part because of the achievements of previous Labour governments, too many still do not.

In a nation still afflicted by substandard housing, stubborn worklessness, and a relative decline in education standards, building “One Scotland” is no easy task. And it is made harder by the economic circumstances now confronting us.

The present stalling of economic growth in Britain, the Eurozone crisis, the debt ceiling debacle in the Unites States, each reflect a deeper and generational shift in productive and economic power from West to East that has only been accelerated by the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.

So the challenge facing social democratic politicians in the years ahead, not just here in Scotland, or across the UK, but in countless countries, is how to advance social justice when there is not much money around.

That endeavour demands a new statecraft for this new decade – reimagining policies in relation to economic growth, the welfare state and our public services.

To acknowledge this is not to try to write a manifesto. It is to acknowledge the urgency of a new approach. It is an analysis that identifies a more empowered people and a more equal society as defining missions of a better nation notwithstanding – indeed in part because of – the tough times ahead.

This is what I suggest deserves to be at the centre of Scottish Labour’s renewed story. A radical claim on the future. One that says the test is not how much more power a parliament has, or how much more autonomy can be achieved. Instead, what counts – in employment, in housing, in health and in education – is are our combined actions tackling the barriers and inequality that still hold back too many of our people. The barriers and inequality that still stand in the way of being the kind of Scotland we could be. Are we, by our will and by our work, creating One Scotland?

For all of our present weakness I believe the political party best able to tell this story is Scottish Labour.

I make this claim for the following reason. Our core as a party has been and remains defined by our commitment to two central beliefs: a belief in social justice, and a commitment to home rule within the United Kingdom.

So the task of rebuilding Scottish Labour is not an invitation to reject our longest-held beliefs, but to reaffirm them.

Of course that reaffirmation of political purpose, however important, is not enough. Scottish Labour also needs to embrace radical proposals to throw open its doors, and draw our future candidates from Labour “people” and not just Labour members, by which I mean people from all walks of life who share our values and who are willing us to be better, so that they can once again be proud to support us.

But, as I have sought to suggest this evening, we will only attract these people if we are clearer about the contribution we can make to the next chapter of Scotland’s story.

It is a challenge to which, I believe, we can rise. Just as years ago, New Labour had to dispel the myth that if you were ambitious, had done well, and had got on in life, you inevitably supported the Conservative Party, so now and in the years ahead Scottish Labour must dispel the myth that if you feel proudly and patriotically Scottish, and are ambitious for Scotland and its potential, you inevitably support the SNP.

Scottish Labour’s political purpose has to be about the future possibilities for Scotland, not the past wrongs, real and imagined, done to Scotland.

With this approach, I believe the history of Scotland, written by this generation, can and will be remembered not by the “The End of an Auld Sang” but positively and vibrantly by “The beginning of a New Story”.

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Dr Campbell Christie <em>Picture: Scottish Government</em>

Dr Campbell Christie Picture: Scottish Government

Martin Sime is director of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, and writes a monthly column for The Caledonian Mercury.

For devolution’s first decade, it seemed as though Scotland had it made. We made tuition free for Scottish students, introduced free personal care for the elderly and improved public health with the smoking ban. Of course, with 5 per cent annual growth in the Scottish budget, we didn’t have to think very hard about whether all the measures introduced by the new Scottish parliament were achieving all the outcomes we had hoped for.

But the crash, the bail-out and the ensuing recession exacerbated the underlying problems we’ve long grappled with in Scotland.

Alongside a decade of growth in public spending, inequalities have grown, too. Between the highest and lowest achievers at school, between the life expectancy and health of the richest and the poorest, and between the static wages of the lowest paid and the booming bonuses of the highest, our public services have somehow failed to make our country fairer.

This week, the report from the Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services – chaired by Dr Campbell Christie – put it rather well: “irrespective of the current economic challenges, a radical change in the design and delivery of public services is necessary to tackle the deep-rooted social problems that persist in communities across the country … unless Scotland embraces a radical, new, collaborative culture throughout our public services, both budgets and provision will buckle under the strain.”

It would be easy to underestimate the importance of the commission’s report. There is no single easily repeatable, simple headline that would act as a magic wand to fix our public services.

But for years now, even before the crash, we have been putting off the tough decisions on public services and the way we design, deliver and fund them. In the good times we didn’t have to think about it. In the crash there were more immediate concerns. And over the last year-and-a-half our politicians have put off any meaningful discussion until after the Westminster election, until after the report of Crawford Beveridge’s Independent Budget Review, and until the Holyrood election was out of the way.

The sheer urgency of the crisis facing Scotland’s public services has been conveniently ignored by many of our politicians. But the Christie report makes it clear that there can be no more excuses – we must change the way we meet the needs of Scotland’s people and we must start changing now.

The commission identified a rapid growth in demand, particularly for older people’s care, as a key factor in driving reform. It highlights that between 2008 and 2033, the number of people aged over 75 will increase by 84 per cent and that there will be a 20 per cent increase in prisoner numbers by 2020. The report estimates that additional demands on social care and justice services will cost more than £27 billion over the next 15 years.

To tackle this demand in a context of a £39 billion shortfall due to government spending cuts, the commission sets out a range of recommendations including a new set of statutory powers and duties for all public service bodies. These would focus on outcomes, as well as reforms to commissioning processes and a revamped concordat between local and national government to clarify roles and responsibilities.

Let’s be clear – now is the time to make change happen. To put people and communities at the heart of public services, to support the most vulnerable and prevent need from arising. The third sector is instrumental to tackling the causes rather than symptoms of social ills, doing things with people not to them and focusing on outcomes rather than structures. This report provides the building blocks – now the Scottish government must act to build a better future and reform our public services.

SCVO’s convener, Alison Elliot, was one of the commissioners involved in taking evidence and creating the report. The SCVO chief executive, Martin Sime, was also one of three expert advisers to the commission.

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<em>Picture: Let Ideas Compete</em>

Picture: Let Ideas Compete

Anti-tobacco campaigners have warned that more needs to be done to tackle what they say is Scotland’s biggest killer.

In a hard-hitting report, published today, ASH Scotland makes 33 recommendations for a new Scottish tobacco control strategy.

These range from the relatively benign – eg steps to reduce smoking in young people – to the controversial, including reducing smoking in the home and in cars to protect people from second-hand smoke.

Sheila Duffy, ASH Scotland’s chief executive, said that Scotland had already taken major steps to reduce smoking. “However much more needs to be done,” she added. “A quarter of all adult deaths are due to smoking-related diseases. That is six times as many people dying from tobacco than all the deaths from homicide, suicide, falls, poisoning and accidents – including traffic accidents – combined. How can we let that continue?”

She said that action needed to be taken in deprived areas in particular, as smoking rates among the most disadvantaged remained at 43 per cent, compared to nine per cent in the least deprived. This is expected in life expectancy, with 32 per cent of deaths in the most deprived areas attributed to smoking, compared to 15 per cent in the wealthiest.

The recommendations cover prevention, cessation, reducing exposure to second-hand smoke and government, society in industry.

The organisation stops short of calling for legislation to protect against second-hand smoke, but says it “can’t ignore” the impact it has on health, particularly child health. “27.4 per cent of Scottish children are exposed to second-hand smoke in their own home, with 54 per cent of babies and young children from the poorest backgrounds regularly exposed to second-hand smoke in the home.

“ASH Scotland firmly believes action is needed. Not legislation in this case, but we need awareness campaigns about the impacts of smoking on children’s health, we need to ensure health professionals can help parents find ways of reducing these impacts and we need to engage the public in debating how best we can protect our children from the harm caused by second-hand smoke.”

The document, Beyond Smoke Free, follows publication of another ASH Scotland report, State of the Nation: Measuring progress towards a tobacco-free Scotland, which showed that although smoking rates had reduced since devolution, there was still more to be done. It is available at ashscotland.org.uk/policy/beyond-smoke-free.

Sheila Duffy of ASH Scotland

Sheila Duffy of ASH Scotland

Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive, ASH Scotland

The spending review has been well trailed, and today’s statement may come as an anti-climax, especially as we have a further month to hear about the consequences to Scottish budgets.

I know tough decisions will have had to be taken, but I hope these decisions are not short-sighted. It would be tragic if investment in smoking prevention and intervention became casualties of a spending round focused on short term concerns.

Devolution has allowed us to introduce ambitious Scottish policies and legislation to tackle smoking. So much so, Scotland has become a world leader in tobacco control and begun to make a real difference to our public health. However Scotland has a history of particularly high rates of smoking, the legacy of which is being endured now, with a quarter of all adult deaths due to smoking and thousands of Scots suffering from illnesses caused by smoking.

Conservative estimates put the direct cost to the NHS of treating smoking-related diseases at £271 million annually with the overall cost of smoking to our society hitting at least £1 billion a year. In 2009-10, Scotland’s health budget was £12.5 billion. Yet just £14.75 million was spent on stop-smoking services, support which is both effective and cost-effective. In terms of life-years gained, statins to prevent heart disease cost nearly £25,000 a year, smoking cessation costs less than £1,000. Per quitter, NHS cessation support costs less than £500. That investment has helped reduce smoking and is starting to pay dividends as smoking-related diseases reduce. Still, 69% of adult smokers want to quit but only 34% say they have been offered support.

This opinion piece is part of The Caledonian Mercury’s ongoing debate about Scotland’s national life and is part of our commitment to raise the level of debate in Scotland. If you or your organisation would like a platform to voice your views then please contact us at [email protected]

Tackling smoking is a long term investment. In his last report, the Chief Medical Officer stated that lung cancer in women is set to double over the next ten years. The increased smoking amongst women more than a generation ago is now revealing its’ health impact. Through cessation and prevention, we must break that cycle.

The Finance Committee’s current Preventative Spending Inquiry has heard from eminent expert witnesses that the proportion of spending on prevention is very small and that support and spend on long term prevention is vital to reduce ill health and provide long term benefits. In smoking this is clear. Building on prevention work to reduce the 15,000 young people who currently start to smoke each year will bring substantial health and economic dividends in the long term – especially in deprived areas.

Smoking in Scotland has reduced greatly over the last decade, falling from 31% in 1999 to 24% in 2009. However in our most disadvantaged areas, it remains a major problem and a key contributor to low life expectancy. 43% of adults who live in deprived areas smoke, compared with 9% in the least deprived areas. 32% of deaths in the most deprived areas are due to smoking compared to 15% in the most affluent. Major research carried out in Renfrewshire showed smoking is a greater source of health inequality than social class.

Our political parties have prioritised tackling health inequalities. To achieve progress, it is clear that smoking must continue to be tackled and resourced.

ASH Scotland today publishes an ambitious and radical document which proposes measures to tackle tobacco over the next decade and beyond, starting with a new comprehensive tobacco control strategy for Scotland.

Beyond Smoke-free provides 33 robust yet achievable recommendations which were developed by an expert advisory group and involved extensive consultation. Not everyone will agree with every single recommendation but I hope it will provoke an open and rational discussion about what more we need to do and how best we can use our resources to reduce tobacco harm.

This isn’t a call for increased funding. It is about targeting and using our resources in the most effective way to tackle what remains Scotland’ s biggest preventable killer and achieve a generational change. Here lies the challenge.

Our political system incentivises quick impacts within a four year cycle more than policies which bring long term dividends. But to date the Scottish Parliament has shown an encouraging consensus on tobacco, and while tens of thousands of Scots live with and die from smoking related diseases, action must unquestionably be taken.

The Scottish Government that is elected in 2011 must show ambition and aspiration and pursue a clear strategy to reduce the major health impact smoking has on Scotland’s people. To truly tackle this uniquely addictive and lethal product; ambition, vision and innovation are needed. Beyond Smoke-free provides just that.

<em>Picture: Let Ideas Compete</em>

Picture: Let Ideas Compete

Scotland is unlikely to meet this year’s target to cut the rate of adult smoking to 22 per cent, according to campaigners.

Services in deprived and areas are finding the goals particularly hard to reach, a report from ASH Scotland warns, adding that this could lead to widening health inequalities.

Some health boards are on track to achieve the target – which was reiterated by the Scottish Government during the 2007 spending review – but a number will probably fail, the report says.

“This target became a national indicator enshrined within the national performance framework,” the report says. “Data from the Scottish Household Survey is used to measure progress towards this target. As we await 2010 data, although we cannot judge whether the target has been met, we can speculate that it is unlikely, based on recent trends.”

In its report, State of the Nation: Measuring progress towards a tobacco free Scotland, the organisation examines the policies, targets and action plans which have been put in place since publication of Scotland’s first tobacco control strategy, A Breath of Fresh Air, in 2004. It also considers achievements to date and says what still needs to be done.

As a report card it is mixed, with major achievements – such as cutting the number of children who have ever smoked – alongside less encouraging figures. For example, smoking among young adults aged 16-24, which was declining, started rising again in 2007, and stood at 28 per cent in 2008 (the most recent year for which figures are available).

Smoking among younger people is reducing, however, falling from a peak of 30 per cent of 15-year-olds being regular smokers in 1996 to 15 per cent in 2008.

The reduction of smoking among pregnant women as been relatively successful, the report says, with the 2010 target of cutting the percentage of pregnant women who smoke from 29 per cent in 1995 to 20 per cent being met two years early. Again there is a poverty/affluence divide, with 30 per cent of pregnant women in the most deprived areas recorded as smoking, compared to 6.6 per cent of those living in the least deprived areas.

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, said that more needed to be done. “This report shows that tobacco control has been a real success story in Scotland since devolution with smoking rates reducing from 31 per cent in 1999 to 24 per cent in 2009.

“Whilst there is no doubt that in the last decade Scotland has become a world leader in tobacco control and major inroads have been made in encouraging smokers to quit and preventing young people from starting, Scotland’s history of particularly high rates of smoking mean there is still work to be done. While 13,500 adult deaths are due to smoking every year and thousands of others suffer smoking related illnesses, we have a duty to reduce the toll tobacco takes on Scotland’s public health. “

She was delighted to see that many targets had been met and progress made in reducing smoking amongst particular groups, for example with young people and pregnant women. “However this report shows that within many other groups in our society, measures are not in place for services to be effectively and efficiently targeted where they are needed most. In particular smoking in Scotland’s most deprived areas remains a major problem especially as it is a key contributor to the low life expectancy in deprived areas. This is leading to an increasing health inequalities gap which must be addressed.”

It was of particular concern, the report says, that while 69 per cent of smokers say they would like to quit, only 34 per cent say they have received an offer of support.

The positive aspects of the report were welcomed by BMA Scotland. Deputy chairman Charles Saunders said: “This report highlights Scotland’s proud record on dealing with the dangers of tobacco. Scotland’s MSPs were the first in the UK to consider a ban on tobacco advertising and first to support smoke-free legislation.

“But we must build on the successes of the past decade by developing a comprehensive tobacco strategy for the future, which will help us work towards becoming a tobacco-free nation.”

A Scottish Government spokesman outlined action being taken to tackle smoking, including the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010, which will end displays of cigarettes in shops and cigarette sales from vending machines.

“Quitting smoking is the biggest single thing anyone can do to improve their health and we’re doing all we can to reduce the numbers of smokers in Scotland. Since devolution, national tobacco control programmes, including the smoking ban in March 2006 and raising the age of purchase of tobacco from 16 to 18, have resulted in a shift in the cultural acceptability of smoking.

“We’re committed to stopping people – particularly young people – from starting to smoke in the first place. We will continue to help smokers to quit through the delivery of smoking cessation services that help individuals manage their own health and change their behaviour.”

ASH Scotland is due to publish a second report – detailing ideas on how to continue to tackle the problem of tobacco use, and how to take it forward through a new tobacco control strategy.

“Both these reports will underline the challenges we still face to reduce and prevent the huge health problems that tobacco causes,” added Ms Duffy.

Prevalence of smoking among Scottish adults

Prevalence of smoking among Scottish adults

Cigarette displayScots retailers and shopkeepers are to be given a say in shaping the ban on the display of tobacco, it emerged today.

Ministers will unveil detailed plans on Tuesday for a consultation on how the ban is going to work. There will be a three-month consultation on the proposals, which include:

Limiting displays during a sale to an area approximately the size of a cigarette packet.

Temporary, incidental, displays to be allowed while stocktaking, staff training, pricing and refurbishment are taking place – for no longer than necessary to undertake the activities.

Fixed penalty of £50 for people who buy, or attempt to buy, tobacco products for under-18s.
Fixed penalty of £200 for retailers, rising by £200 for every offence committed within a one-year period.
Displays will be allowed in cash and carry and duty-free premises, as long as the displays are in an area where only tobacco products for sale and which is not visible from other parts of the store.

The costs for refitting shops to comply with the display ban are estimated to start at £160 for a corner shop, rising to £320 for a medium-sized shop and £640 for a large store.

The display ban comes into force next year for large retailers and in 2013 for small shops.

Shona Robison, the public health minister, said: “Cigarettes kill and we’re determined to do all we can both to help people quit and dissuade today’s children from becoming tomorrow’s smokers. It’s a stark fact that a child who starts smoking at 14 or younger is five times more likely to die of lung cancer than someone who starts to smoke at age 24 or over.

“The ban on cigarette displays, coupled with a ban on the sale of cigarettes from vending machines, is designed to make cigarettes less attractive and less accessible to children. I know some retailers had concerns about proposals to ban cigarette displays but the display ban is now law and I would urge retailers to use this consultation as an opportunity to shape the future of tobacco retailing in Scotland.”

The consultation will begin on 28 April and run until the end of July.

Under the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act, which received Royal Assent earlier this year, it is an offence for a shop to display tobacco products or smoking-related products (cigarette papers, tubes, filters and holders, as well as apparatus for making cigarettes and pipes for smoking tobacco).

Specialist tobacconists are exempt from the legislation. To qualify as a specialist tobacconist, at least half of a shop’s income must come from the sale of cigars, snuff, pipe tobacco and smoking accessories – not including cigarettes.

<em>Picture: SuperFantastic</em>

Picture: SuperFantastic

Smokers should be banned from lighting up in cars to protect children from the effects of tobacco, a leading Scottish doctor has warned.

Dr Neil Dewhurst, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, called on the Scottish government to lead the way, following a report from the RCP London, called Passive Smoking in Children, published today.

The report details the health damage suffered by children which can be attributed to passive smoking, and calls for a raft of measures to try to tackle the problem.

According to the report, passive smoking in the UK takes a yearly toll on the health of children, including:

  • One in five of all Sudden Infant Deaths (cot death) – 40 per year
  • Over 20,000 cases of lower respiratory tract infection
  • 120,000 cases of middle ear disease
  • At least 22,000 new cases of wheeze and asthma
  • 200 cases of bacterial meningitis

The most important factors governing exposure to children are whether their parents or carers smoke and whether smoking is allowed in the home, the report says. Passive smoking exposure is nearly nine times higher for children who live in homes where both parents smoke (compared to children in non-smoking families), and is also an issue where older siblings smoke.

The report calls for measures including a prohibition of smoking in cars and other vehicles and a comprehensive strategy to reduce the prevalence of smoking in adults, particularly younger adults. This should include increases in the real price of tobacco and generic, standardised packaging, the report says.

Dr Dewhurst said: “Passive smoking exposure levels in children have fallen by 40 per cent in Scotland since the introduction of smoke-free legislation, but exposure levels in children of smokers remain high, and demand further legislative action.

“We fully endorse today’s report which calls for an extension of smoke-free legislation throughout the UK in order to include public areas frequented by children and in cars.

“Scotland has led in the UK in the introduction of smoke-free legislation and we call on the Scottish government to extend this legislation as a matter of priority.”

Professor Terence Stephenson, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said: “We should be making cars totally smoke-free if there are children travelling in them. Second-hand smoke has been found to be strongly linked to chest infections in children, asthma, ear problems and sudden infant death syndrome, or cot death. We strongly support the policy recommendations in this new report and repeat the call for new approaches to address this problem so that we protect the health of children and young people.”

Professor John Britton, Chair of the RCP Tobacco Advisory Group said: “This report isn’t just about protecting children from passive smoking; it’s about taking smoking completely out of children’s lives.”