Sunday 22 September 2019

Nicola Sturgeon lies about minimum pricing

Last week, I mentioned the crude cherry-picking that allowed an advocate of minimum pricing to imply that his pet policy was reducing alcohol-related deaths in Scotland. Thanks to a press release and the media's confirmation bias, this became news.

I see that it has also become a 'fact' cited in the Scottish parliament...

Clare Adamson Scottish National Party:

The First Minister will be aware of new research showing that there has been a 21.5 per cent decrease in alcohol-related deaths in Glasgow since the introduction of minimum unit pricing. Does the First Minister agree with the British Liver Trust that Parliaments across these islands should get on with the day job and follow Scotland’s lead in the area?

Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party:

Yes, I strongly agree with the British Liver Trust. I am proud that the Parliament introduced minimum unit pricing. It is of course early days for that policy, and a full review is built into the legislation. However, all the early indications, including the statistic from Glasgow that Clare Adamson referred to, suggest that the policy is working and is saving lives and improving health for people across the country. I am proud of the policy, and I think that the Parliament should be proud of it. Although it is for others to make their decisions, I encourage other Governments and Parliaments across not just the rest of the UK but the world to look at the policy and consider implementing it in their countries.

This is a lie. Alcohol-related deaths in Scotland rose in 2018. There is, as yet, no evidence whatsoever that the policy is 'saving lives and improving health'.

It brings to mind the ludicrous Helena Miracle reported in 2003 which claimed a 60 per cent fall in heart attack admissions in a small US town after it introduced a smoking ban. As with the minimum pricing factoid, it was announced at a conference and turned out to be the result of shameless cherry-picking

Closer to home, it is reminiscent of the equally false claim that Scotland's smoking ban led to an immediate 17 per cent decline in heart attacks. That factoid was also cited in parliament, both in Scotland and London.

Through sheer repetition, the cherry-picked figure from Glasgow may now become the best known fact about minimum pricing. The more relevant fact - that deaths rose in the nation as a whole - has still not been reported by any newspaper and may never be brought to the public's attention.

If so, the scoundrels of 'public health' can rub their grubby little hands and together and congratulate themselves for getting away with it again.

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