Thursday 22 September 2011

The Battle Of Stirling And The Start Of The British War On Fizzy Drinks

The shrill, anguished tantrums continue over Stirling University - quite rightly - being ordered to hand over details of their studies under Freedom of Information laws.

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 information
A 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 ban
Rumours 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 drinks
For the record, this particular cock is of the Scottish Labour variety.


subrosa said...

Richard, are you trying to upset me? Two years ago it was decided by the Westminster government that the Scottish government would be known as such and the word 'assembly' no longer applied.

And I thought you were on my side too :)

Back to topic. I've no idea about the politics of the Barr family (one of Scotland's large exports with Irn Bru), who make the most successful fizzy drink in Europe, but I'm sure, in their quiet and dignified way, they will put their opinion across.

Richard Simpson was a good medic I'm told but since he became a very left-wing labour spokesman and took the Labour Shilling it's all been downhill. Poor man, selling his principles for a space on the Scottish labour benches when he could be earning far more as a GP these days. Perhaps he knows the majority of his medical colleagues wouldn't appreciate having him in their midst once again.

As for Stirling University...

Dick Puddlecote said...

Rosie: I edited out 'parliament' before publishing, I'll know better in future. :)

Michael Fowke said...

Eh? I love fizzy drinks, especially Coke. And I dream of the day when they bring Top Deck shandy back.

P T Barnum said...

Apparently my 82 year old father's bedtime double whisky may shorten his life, according to the consultant he saw last month. We agreed the man may know a lot about bowels but he's a moralising halfwit otherwise.

Ivan D said...

Passing a medical degree tends to make people more expert than most on fixing sick people. It also tends to make them very wealthy.

What it does not make them is expert on anything other than fixing sick people. Sadly, the most arrogant of all professions seems to believe otherwise and a minority of its members insist on offering inexpert opinion on all sorts of matters.

Journalists seem collectively incapable of understanding this very simple concept.

Angry Exile said...

Does anyone else wonder if the anti-everything mob are getting a little bit cocky? They haven't quite achieved total victory over tobacco and a smoking ban that lasts a thousand years, and yet they're already going all out to control alcohol, salt, fizzy drinks, and whatever they perceive to be junk food this week, and probably some stuff I've forgotten about. In other words they've gone from attacking the liberties of smokers, which is about what, a fifth or so of the population, to attacking virtually everybody. Might be what undoes them in the end, with a bit of luck.

Anonymous said...

That,ll double the price of Iron-Bru then.

Anonymous said...

Has it yet been said that a bottle of the killer Bru costs less than a bottle of water? :)


Sam Duncan said...

I thought that was an informal concession to Salmond's megalomania, Subrosa. As far as I know, there's never been any legislation to that effect. Of course, “assembly” was never the official name of either the, er, assembly or the administration.

But honestly, who cares? Doesn't everyone just call them “those bastards in Edinburgh” anyway?

It all reminds me, though, Dick: I take it you've heard of the Nats' “public health levy” on “large” stores selling fags and booze? The Corner Shop Club (or whatever it's called) are chuffed to bits, the bloody fools.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Sam: Yes, I have heard of that. A Scottish 'Parliament' document that I read yesterday discussed it, though no-one knows the level it will be set at yet, IIUC.

You're right about the idiocy of small shops. If they think they are immune to the 'polluter pays' principle, they're very bloody naive. Tobacco control will come after them too, eventually.

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to know just exactly what was behind Boris Johnson's banning of booze on London Transport (his first legislation, IIRC) ... special lobbies, and, if so, which ones?