Smoking row burns on in Scotland and Wales by Claire Hu Scottish pubs appear to have escaped a total ban on smoking in public places but First Minister Jack McConnell has indicated the battle is far from over. Licensees had feared that a Scottish Executive strategy for tackling smoking, published last week, would overturn the work the industry had achieved with the voluntary smoking charter. While the report steered clear of recommending a total ban, McConnell has said the option is not being ruled out completely. In an on-line debate, he said: "We will watch the Irish example with interest. In the meantime, I certainly hope that we can develop support across Scotland for more bans in more places. We need to reduce the number of active as well as passive smokers in Scotland." Meanwhile, support for a smoking ban in Wales is growing after a bill was introduced in the House of Lords that would see anyone who lights up in a pub or restaurant jailed for up to three months or fined. Baroness Finlay, of Llandaff, a cancer specialist who is vice-dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Wales, wants the Government to give the National Assembly the power to ban smoking in public places. Proposing the Smoking in Public Places (Wales) Bill in the Lords last Friday, Baroness Finlay said 7,000 people in Wales died from tobacco smoke each year. "If [the Assembly] cannot tackle the extensive problems of passive smoking, it is being asked to provide healthcare with one hand tied behind its back, because voluntary measures have been extensively implemented, but have failed to impact rapidly," she said. While the bill has only a slight chance of becoming law, it is aimed at putting pressure on the Government to allow Wales to decide its own smoking policy. It is being opposed by SA Brain, one of Wales's biggest pub operators with more than 200 tenanted and managed houses. The company offers separate no-smoking areas in more than 60% of its pubs. SA Brain retail director Philip Lay said: "We appreciate that many of our customers prefer a smoke-free environment but at the same time, do not wish to alienate the significant percentage of our customers who do smoke. "We would therefore oppose Baroness Finlay's call for the National Assembly to introduce a ban on smoking in all public places in Wales, and would prefer to see a solution adopted which promotes consumer choice. "At SA Brain, we feel we have adopted a practical solution to the problem which allows us to accommodate all our customers, smokers and non-smokers alike.