Friday 28 June 2019

State propaganda for minimum pricing

Not a single newspaper has covered the statistics published by the Scottish government on Wednesday showing a rise in alcohol-related deaths in 2018. Given the extensive coverage of the decline in alcohol consumption a week earlier, this is shameful bias.

In fact, only one article appeared this week about minimum pricing. It was written by Sarah Devine at the Scotsman and was published yesterday (and put online today). It makes for very strange reading.

Indications are that the introduction of the minimum unit pricing of alcohol has lowered consumption, and hopes are high that a correlative reduction in drink-related violence is on the way, writes Sarah Devine.

It has been little over a year since Scotland became the first country in the world to introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP), and the latest official figures show that the policy is clearly working.

As mentioned, the latest official figures actually show that alcohol-related deaths rose but this fact doesn't get a mention in Sarah's article.

MUP was first called for by Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) in 2007 before being implemented by the Scottish Government in May last year to challenge cheap prices charged for alcoholic drinks in Scotland.

Numbers released by Holyrood this month show that there has been a 3 per cent fall in alcohol sales per adult in the country since then, while the volume of alcohol sold per adult in Scotland in 2018 reached its lowest level in 25 years.

SHAAP, which was established in 2006 by the Scottish Medical Royal Colleges and based within the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, is a clinical group aimed at tackling the public health issue of alcohol-related harm to improve the health and wellbeing of people in Scotland through a range of evidence-based approaches. It is also working to change the public’s perception of alcohol and reduce its negative impact on young people.

This is starting to read like a press release from SHAAP.

Last month, SHAAP was named as the first sponsor of Scottish Women’s Football’s National Performance League and NPL Cup, the elite level for girls’ club football in Scotland and the body lauded its stance on not accepting alcohol sponsorship.

Since SHAAP began, the number of alcohol-related crimes has also decreased substantially.

Given that the number of alcohol-related crimes has fallen substantially in England over the same period, this is a pretty clear case of the post hoc fallacy.

SHAAP’s work is led by a steering group with representation from the Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland as well as invited experts.

SHAAP this, SHAAP that. Where is the news? Where is the opposing viewpoint? Where are the death statistics?

One such member is Dr Christine Goodall, who co-founded the Scottish charity Medics Against Violence (MAV) two years after SHAAP began, and who welcomes this reduction in the number of violent crimes.

The rest of the article is a puff piece for Medics Against Violence.

Combined with minimum unit pricing, work on issues such as adverse childhood experiences and the reduction of the availability of alcohol in deprived areas, in line with the WHO approach, Goodall is hopeful that the number of violent and alcohol-related assaults will continue to fall.

This is like something out of Pravda and it is very odd. It only makes sense when you look again at the top of the page and see this...

'Promoted by' means sponsored by, ie. paid for. Note that SHAAP is based out of the Royal College of Physicians, as the article says.

It turns out that Sarah Devine has a history of writing articles favourable to this pressure group, such as this piece promoting sponsorship of women's football and this piece promoting a temperance conference...

I don't hold this against Sarah Devine. Journalism is a tough trade these days. The problem is that SHAAP is entirely funded by taxpayers, with 87 per cent of its income coming directly from the Scottish government.

It seems, therefore, that the Scottish government is indirectly paying for biased, positive coverage of one of its pet policies in a Scottish newspaper. If so, Scotland's sockpuppet state is worse than I thought.

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