Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Liberal Vision declares ASH Scotland a waste of money

News indeed! a mainstream political party's blog expresses astonishment at the level of funding given to ASH Scotland. It says: Time to bin ASH before they trash another part of the economy.

The writer has just read Beyond Smoke-free, ASH Scotland's recently published blueprint for the future of smoking in Scotland. It is also reviewed by Katherine Graham of the Tobacco Retailers' Alliance in a report here. The Liberal Vision blog is far more damning of ASH Scotland than Katherine Graham, though both despair of their understanding of business, whether at the level of the small shop or indeed the entire Scottish economy. ASH Scotland's suggestion that the Scottish Government should offer shops a realistic incentive to stop selling tobacco illustrates this lack of understanding. The cost of making this work would run into billions, and there has probably never been a less appropriate time to make such a suggestion.

The other suggestion that attracts remark is the proposal to increase the tax on tobacco by 5 per cent a year: since there is already a thriving illicit tobacco market, as both Katherine Graham and Angela Harbutt of Liberal Vision point out, this is unlikely to result in a drop in smoking rates.

I particularly like Angela Harbutt's description of 'the ludicrously well-funded ASH Scotland (which has somehow reversed the Barnett Formula, receiving copiously more than its (also over-funded) English partner organisation'. Also, her conclusion that the Save our Pubs and Clubs campaign should rename itself Save our Pubs and Clubs and Newsagents.

Katherine Graham's piece is a tad too gentle with ASH Scotland for my liking but her conclusion, that raising people's general standard of living is the best way to drive down smoking rates (rather than attacking the symptoms of deprivation, such as smoking), is sound and pertinent in present conditions. In the face of the biggest round of spending cuts in decades, lavish spending on anti-smoking pressure groups like ASH Scotland is particularly bad economics, especially if this money is coming out of health budgets.

(If you have a Liberal MP or MSP, especially in Scotland, do send them a link to the blog post, won't you?)

No comments: