Monday 15 April 2013

Scottish government lobbies itself

An organisation called Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) has demanded that the Scottish booze industry drops its legal challenge to minimum pricing. (UPDATE: Now reported by the BBC.)

A little background...

Although minimum pricing seems to have been dropped by the Westminster government, the Scottish Assembly is still trying to press ahead with it. As regular readers will know, minimum pricing is almost certainly illegal under EU law and the Scottish government was hoping that the English would take the legal bullet by fighting its case in Strasbourg. This now seems unlikely and the SNP will have to deal with that problem somewhere down the line. For the time being, it is embroiled in a legal dispute with the Scotch Whisky Association and others about the same issue.

SHAAP are holding an event today—chaired by the far-left academic Gerard Hastings—which will urge the whisky makers to drop their lawsuit. Why? Well, er, because SHAAP likes the idea of minimum pricing and the law can go hang. Like many 'public health' folk, they feel that the argumentum ad tobacco is all they need—as if lawsuits are only ever filed by the tobacco industry. The following quote comes from Peter Rice, chair of SHAAP.

“The tactics deployed by the drinks industry are not new and borrow heavily from those used by the multinational tobacco industry which over a number of decades has sought to block health policies contrary to its profit-making objectives, ignored evidence of adverse health impact and has similarly sought to undermine the Scottish Parliament by mounting legal challenges to smoking legislation.

“The time has come for the parts of the drinks industry which oppose minimum pricing to drop their opposition, to put people and health before profits and to meaningfully and publicly commit to more responsible and ethical business practices. In recent years Scotland has emerged as a health leader. We would encourage the drinks industry in Scotland to demonstrate similar leadership and commitment to the people of Scotland rather than seeking to undermine democratic decision-making and emulate the discredited practices of the tobacco industry.”

Take that in for a moment. This lobby group is not claiming that minimum pricing is legal. It is not claiming that the drinks industry does not have a case for requesting a judicial review. It merely claims that the drinks industry is undermining "democratic decision-making" by raising a legal objection against an SNP government that got 32% of the vote at the last election.

They misunderstand the whole point of civilised democracy. We have a legal system, built up over many centuries, precisely because we don't want temporary custodians of political power to run roughshod over our rights. Checks and balances, lad, checks and balances.

If a government runs foul of the law, we assume that our government is at fault, not the law. If the law is wrong, that must be addressed after careful consideration. Unfortunately, we will occasionally encounter democratically elected governments who wish to ignore the law. They will naturally 'discourage' anyone from taking them to court, but the law must take its course regardless of who is doing the 'discouraging'.

What is SHAAP anyway? Set up in 2006, they are the very model of a government sock puppet. Their only listed funder is the Scottish government and it is the Scottish government that provides its core funding.

It is a state-funded body working as an activist for the government. It is an arm of the state demanding that a private interest drops its lawsuit against the state because the state wishes to prevail. There is a name for this form of political governance and it sure ain't liberalism.


handymanphil said...

Well Chris, let's hope that the Scottish booze industry tells "SHAAP" to 'go take a hike in the highlands'! Welcome to Soviet Scotland!

proglodyte said...

Come election time, it'll be interesting to see if hatred of the English is greater than love of the booze. This would be one of the few thing they couldn't blame the English for......

Ivan D said...

The BBC article is superficially balanced but lists the Marxist's agenda as a series of bullet points thereby giving them the publicity that they crave.

Psychologist Peter Rice and professional propagandist Gerard Hastings have never done an honest days work in their lives. I have no idea why the BBC feels that their nasty little agenda is newsworthy. Unless it too has an agenda.