Friday, 5 February 2010

Glasgow's Health

At today's Executive Committee we discussed (among other items) the Director of Public Health's report An Unequal Struggle for Health. There are a number of important observations and recommendations in the report for the health of our city. One of the most challenging is, of course, our relationship with alcohol.

For Labour, that relationship is even more uncomfortable. Back in December, at the last full meeting of Council of the year, Labour, for reasons best known to themselves, decided to reject the sensible, non partisan motion submitted by the SNP group:

"Council notes with concern the high and disproportionate impact the misuse of alcohol has on Glasgow's citizens and welcomes the commitment of national and local Governments to tackle this.

Whilst Council notes there is no one answer to tackle this problem it welcomes the principle of minimum pricing which has an important role to play in tackling the misuse of alcohol in Glasgow."

They decided to replace our motion with their own version:

“Council is concerned at the problems faced by many in this city as a result of alcohol misuse, recognises that there is no single solution to this problem and welcomes the commitment of local and national governments to tackle this issue.

Council is aware of the Scottish Government’s preferred option of minimum pricing but is concerned that these proposals are flawed and untested.”

Interestingly, the Director of Public Health's report states quite clearly and unequivocally:

"NHSGGC and its partners must support the government proposals on taking action to restrict promotions of alcohol beverages and introducing a minimum retail price for a UK unit of alcohol"

Whoops! Labour looked distinctly uncomfortable when we challenged them on this today, asking them to retract their previous position - a position most likely forced on them by Iain Gray. They would have known in December that this report was imminent, and that the views of health professionals supported the policy. It just goes to show how petty Labour are - they won't support a policy just because the SNP proposed it. Contrast this with the mature, cross-party support for the banning of smoking in indoor public places.

Sadly for Labour, and tragically for the cause of public health in our city, Council standing orders dictate that decisions taken by the Council can't be overturned for a period of six months, so Labour really have painted themselves into a corner on this one.
I'm not certain that it's logical for Labour to back a report contrary to Council policy, but there's really not much else they could do!

The report was accepted unanimously by the Committee, and the work of the Director, Dr Linda De Caestecker, and her team roundly welcomed. I would encourage folk to have a peek at the report - it really is well-written and interesting.

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