A high-profile health group has criticised the Scottish government’s decision to include representatives of the alcohol industry on a Holyrood body examining licensing hours.
Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said that the Scottish government had dismissed concerns from public health bodies over the presence of representatives of the alcohol industry on the National Licensing Advisory Group (NLAG).
The 'representatives of the alcohol industry' are the Scottish Retail Consortium, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association and the Scottish Grocer's Federation, all of whom are entitled to have their voices heard on a matter that clearly affects them. By contrast, the 'high-profile health group' is Alcohol Focus Scotland, a government-funded sock puppet that represents no one at all.
The temperance nutters in Scotland, as elsewhere, have a 'no platform for industry scum' stance and have predictably stormed out...
The body was set up to explore ways for “improving the operation of the licensing regime”, but NLAG’s four public health representatives, including Dr Gillan, quit after the government failed to agree to proposals to restrict the role of the drinks industry on the group.
By 'restrict', they mean 'eliminate'. In the Stalinist world of public health, it is not enough to be invited to the party. Everybody else must be forced to leave.
This all started when the temperance groups demanded the industry groups be thrown off the panel last year...
The dispute dates back to November, when the four health experts wrote to Mary Cuthbert, a civil servant and NLAG chairwoman, calling for NLAG to be made up of licensing regulators, such as local authorities, rather than industry representatives.
The letter read: “In our view, it is not appropriate for the producers and retailers of alcohol to be involved in determining the conditions of their own regulation in the manner that the NLAG’s membership and work programme entails.”
This game of brinkmanship backfired when the government decided that the licensing group should be more than a forum for anti-alcohol agitators.
The quartet then wrote to Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, warning him that there was what they called an “obvious conflict of interest” in having industry representatives in NLAG, but Mr MacAskill said that the group’s diverse membership offered a “valuable fresh perspective”.
And so they quit. Adios, so long, close the door behind you, etc. We are used to 'public health' lobbyists going home and taking their ball with them when they don't have a 100 per cent majority in a meeting.
Except it's not their ball and they can't take it home. As with the Responsibility Deal, proceedings continue in their absence.
Rather generously, the government has told the unruly toddlers of public health that they "remain welcome to return to the group", an offer that would surely not be extended to the industry bodies if they had acted in the same petulant manner. Almost incredibly, Alcohol Focus Scotland has instead decided to attack the NLAG for not having any 'public health' groups on it.
Dr Gillan said: “We are very disappointed in the government’s attitude. This is now a predominately industry body, examining a public health issue. There are now no public health organisations involved on this body, so it is wrong to say NLAG incorporates a broad mix of views. The health perspective is missing.”
Er, that's because you all left, remember?