The health of the people is surely the highest purpose of government, so it is chilling to hear that the Coalition does not consider the prevention of ill health and premature mortality to be part of its roleI suppose that is what you would expect doctors to say, and as it happens I agree that a Conservative government would prioritise corporate interests over public health more than I would like. But as it happens, I don't happen to believe that plain packaging is a policy that has any particular merit – the evidence for it has been collated entirely by people employed specifically as tobacco control advocates and suffers disastrously from a lack of objectivity. Government sources know that most people start smoking before they can buy tobacco legally, indeed it is only a matter of years since the legal age of purchasing tobacco was raised, and smokers generally tell you that they were given cigarettes by friends before they could purchase legally.
Even if plain packaging were guaranteed to bring down smoking rates, I wouldn't necessarily consider it health priority, as there are so many other environmental health problems including everything from general aerial pollution, to mineral depletion in the soil.
But we were talking about Scotland. Personally I have made no final decision on this issue. A Herald leader characterises the Queen's Speech as led by UKIP: it excludes legislation to allow gay marriage, and commitments on foreign aid. Some of its points are well made, for example will restrictions on immigration involve GPs and landlords being responsible for vetting their patients or tenants? However it refers to plain packaging as 'progressive' and looks forward to 'going our own way' on plain packaging and minimum pricing, playing right into the hands of those who ridicule the outcome of a Yes vote on the Scottish referendum as the beginning of a thousand year rule for Eck.
There are too many doubters about the wisdom of Scottish independence for this to be a likely political outcome. The Scottish Socialists also support independence, and it is very unlikely that people who have been persuaded into voting for independence, their own warts-and-all goverment rather than the mess (devolution) that we currently have, will be content with a one-party state, whatever the SNP expects at present.
Plain packaging is supported by Cancer Research UK, which is a fanatically anti-tobacco organisation. Its Tobacco Action Group, which funds research into tobacco and cancer, will generally only fund research that finds tobacco responsible for most cancer and supports further restrictions. Such prejudicial conditions are anathema to real scientific investigation and I would not want it to be the basis of policy in Scotland under any circumstances, whether independent or not. The whole tobacco control agenda is pushed by ASH Scotland, an organisation that gets minimal private funding: this does not speak for its popularity.
Those pushing for independence should realise that they have to fight the impression created by the media that they want independence inside a yellow packet adorned with Alex Salmond's picture. He is no more responsible for the popularity of Scottish independence than 'pretty packaging' is responsible for the young taking up smoking. A Yes vote can only occur if the result is expected to improve genuine public participation.
Until I've read more I will still be neutral on this issue. Tobacco control is what we are up against, because it is designed by a global health body that is directed by pharmaceutical interests rather than real health needs.