So far, we've seen the health lobby call in some favours from their pliant lefty media friends, and a hypocritical and back-firing employment of Facebook by Gerard Hastings.
None of it is getting them anywhere, so their willing stooge in the Scottish Assembly got an e-mail asking for a bit more squealing ... just for them. He didn't disappoint.
*S4M-00893 Richard Simpson: Protecting Research Information Given in Confidence by Children—That the Parliament applauds the work of researchers at the University of Stirling who are studying why teenagers start smoking and how they respond to tobacco marketing; is aware that, over the past decade, this research has engaged up to 6,000 teenagers and young people aged 13 to 24, who understood that their views were given in complete confidence; is concerned therefore at news that tobacco giant Philip Morris International has submitted freedom of information requests seeking all the information given by young people about how they respond to tobacco advertising;Err, stop right there, old chum.
Firstly, we are all able to see the actual FOI request as it's in the public domain. You - especially since you're a politician - should have researchers to tell you that PMI aren't seeking any information given by young people. The exact wording of the request is detailed on page 3 of this document, and concerns merely how the data was sampled, the method of data collection, how non-responses were treated, and the way it was weighted and analysed.
What's more, the issue of protecting the confidence of children who responded to the study wasn't given as a reason for refusing the request by Stirling University. Reason being that they are very aware the Information Commissioner's response would have been "oh, per-lease!", because they know damn well that all studies they conduct are liable for disclosure under the FOIA. Their issuing inept assurances, that the law doesn't allow them to honour, is no defence.
So, after such an emotive - and truth-challenged - preamble, where is Simpson taking us?
calls for a discussion, as part of any review of Scotland’s Freedom of Information Act, on use of the act to access information given by individuals as part of a research project that has received ethical approval where consent has included strict confidentiality as a condition of individuals providing researchers with informationA change in the law, of course. He wants the FOIA tailored specifically for Stirling University to carry on producing studies to fit whatever agenda it is pursuing at the time, without recourse to scrutiny by anyone but those it chooses.
Not sure he quite understands the definition of transparency, myself.
I know what you're thinking, "Who is this odious control freak, Dick?". Well, I have written about him before. You see, he's the guy who - when faced with evidence that hiding tobacco displays would have no effect on youth smoking prevalence whatsoever, and was likely to lead to the closure of many a corner shop as in other countries - replied with one of the most egregiously anti-democratic quotes you're ever likely to see.
The fact that we do not have all the evidence is not a reason not to have such a banRumours that his ancestors used to pop along to town meetings and assert that "the fact we don't have evidence that she is a witch is not a reason not to burn her", though eminently believable, have yet to be confirmed.
But then, I suppose we should expect it from a representative of the BMA (who want a national ban on alcohol on public transport and a tax on fatties), and the Royal College of Psychiatrists (who call for pensioners to be terrorised) for whom politicking is just a sideline which enables facilitation of banning just about everything he woke up in the morning with the horn for.
Including this doozy which he just threw in for jolly while he was there championing Stirling's cause amongst a plethora of other motions which - to be perfectly honest - reminded me of teen angst-ridden beret-wearers baring their naïve bleeding hearts in a 1980s campus student rag.
*S4M-00892 Richard Simpson: Vive la France—That the Parliament applauds the French Government, which is introducing a tax on sugary drinks that it expects to raise €120 million for the French treasury; [...] and calls on the Scottish Government to consider giving local authorities power to introduce a tax on sugary drinksFor the record, this particular cock is of the Scottish Labour variety.