Scottish health initiative criticised

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Scotland

Scottish health activists have slammed a voluntary approach by the drinks trade to promote responsible drinking.Senior medical figures and academics...

Scottish health activists have slammed a voluntary approach by the drinks trade to promote responsible drinking.

Senior medical figures and academics have cast serious doubt on whether a Scottish Executive Partnership with producers can deliver results and called for urgent government action to tackle drink abuse.

The Executive-industry deal aims to use self-regulation and marketing know-how to get across a safe drinking message especially to younger people.

Speaking at the Holyrood conference, Scots on the Rocks, keynote speaker Professor Griffith Edwards, founder of the National Addiction Centre, told delegates: "The drinks trade wanting to enter into partnership on health issues is a bit like saying the International Federation of Wolves should be allowed into partnership with grandmothers.

"We shall have to control the alcohol supply."

But the head of BII Scotland, Janet Hood, defended the initiative, arguing it has an important role to play in encouraging sensible drinking.

She said: "The trade is currently the whipping boy for all Scottish ills. What we have to ask is ­ where are the sports clubs, the youth clubs? There is nothing like the encouragement there was when I was a teenager."

Parental guidance is often woefully lacking, she said, arguing that the industry can play a positive role in trying to change attitudes to drinking.

Hood pointed to the "growing professionalism" of the Scottish on-trade, reflected in greatly increased membership of BII Scotland ­ now understood to have 660 members.

Drinks giant Diageo's government affairs manager Rachael Robertson asserted the firm "had nothing to be ashamed of" and argued that drinks companies' marketing experience ­ and data ­ could be used to good effect in public health moves.

The Portman Group said the industry had done much to prevent the sale and marketing of "irresponsible" products.

Health experts slam drinks sport sponsorship

Dr Laurence Gruer OBE, director of public health science for NHS Scotland, said the alcohol industry dominated sports sponsorship "giving it a thin veneer of social responsibility". He also argued there's a case for health warnings on drinks bottles.

Professor Gerard Hastings of Stirling University also targeted drinks brand sports sponsorship. The first thing young adults see when they log onto websites for famous soccer rivals Rangers or Celtic is Carling logos, he said.

Diageo came under fire for backing the bid to bring the Commonwealth Games to Scotland. But Diageo government affairs manager Rachael Robertson hit back, saying the firm wouldn¹t be flagging up any drinks brand names in its sponsorship ­ Diageo's Smirnoff Red is Scotland's top-selling on-trade spirit ­ and said thousands who work in the industry have the right to feel proud of their company's support for the Scottish bid.

Related topics: Health & safety

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