Wednesday, 9 March 2011

The freedom to exclude people with relevant experience

The Herald provides follow-up on yesterday's correspondence on the ASH Scotland/Alcohol Focus Scotland.

Mr Gilligan's long experience with alcohol sales counts for nothing with the new arbiters of public health policy. Naturally he is unhappy:
I find it deeply insulting to imply that because I earn my living selling alcohol I would not give a fair contribution to any debate on how to minimize alcohol abuse.
He goes on: 'In any change process it is vital to involve all the people affected.' And why not? Surely alcohol salespeople have an interest in helping people to avoid abusing alcohol.

Mr Gilligan points out: 'anyone earning an income from ASH Scotland or Alcohol Focus Scotland should be banned from the meeting as they have a commercial interest too'.

He has a point, although the two organisations can hardly be expected to exclude themselves. They would probably also deny a commercial interest as they operate within the voluntary sector, but it can't be denied that they have a policy interest in excluding people with commercial interests. (I've accused them of subscribing to the Big Society agenda, but they can't be accused of espousing the idea that 'We're all in this together'.)

Another correspondent Mr Macdonald asks, with touching simplicity,
Am I alone in seeing the irony of Freedom to Choose questioning why organisers have chosen not to invite the Wine and Spirits Trade Association to the Scottish Alcohol and Tobacco Policy Summit (Letters, March 7)?
Clearly he thinks Freedom to Choose (Scotland) stands for anybody doing whatever the hell they want at any time regardless of the implications. He thinks that small private bodies can legitimately gain charitable status by working to further government agendas, gain government confidence and hold national summit meetings that exclude some of the most experienced and knowledgeable players in the game. He thinks a body that calls itself Freedom to Choose (Scotland) should endorse ASH Scotland and Alcohol Focus Scotland's bid to marginalise people from the alcohol and tobacco industries (and exclude them from a national policy summit) as a triumph of freedom of choice. He finds it ironic that we even question this. I hope he is the only one.

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