How Scottish public health has shown we are living in a bullying state - Brian Monteith

Musing about the last week’s events I suddenly remembered it was this week 12 years ago I published my second book called ‘The Bully State – the end of tolerance’.

Its purpose was to describe how the “Nanny State” had in fact progressed away from “Nanny knows best” to full, all-out bullying.

While it was warmly received by those already identifying the trend of public health professionals, lobbyists and political activists away from trying to educate us to behave in their preferred manner towards forcibly controlling our every move, it's fair to say it did not convert enough minds. The direction of travel of our various governments’ did not change, if anything the breadth reach of controls grew.

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Scotland's vaccine passport app is seen on a smartphone screen. Picture: Ewan Bootman/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

Since then, with the SNP always in power at Holyrood and the Conservatives in forming governments at Westminster since 2010, we are seeing just how much more bullying a state we have.

Various new interventions through taxes and arm twisting on alcohol, sugar and salt laid the ground for the over-reaction of the pandemic response that has taken the bullying to new levels.

Whatever you think of the lockdowns that started on the premise that three weeks was needed to protect the NHS most people – and still lasts in Scotland to a significant degree – the unwillingness of our political masters to let go only serves to show their addiction to the powers they have voted through for themselves.

Even now the Scottish Government has taken new powers for Police Scotland to gain entry to private property without a warrant.

Meanwhile inconsistencies in restrictions between different venues or sectors without any scientific basis continues, while the photographic gallery of politicians breaking their own rules, applying them to groups differently depending on political sentiment, drinking and carousing together, often maskless, and travelling hundreds of miles with Covid, has only grown.

Now the debacle of Scotland’s vaccine passport that has become the laughing stock of Britain illustrates how ridiculous devolved public health policy has become – bullying, but with a saltire added.

As someone double-jabbed through choice, I believe there is no need for such a passport.

Its adherents have admitted publicly the passport’s purpose is to provide a barrier that will force people to become vaccinated against their personal judgement.

Even so, there was an existing app offered by the UK Government – that has since backtracked itself on the use of a passport – that could have been used months ago, but our Scottish Government had to do it differently.

Unfortunately that difference is that its own app doesn’t work properly.

Scotland is becoming defined as a bully state within the UK. Can it learn from its mistakes and pull back from this approach?

Is this what advocates of an independent Scotland want? Not a liberal, open and progressive country, but one that feels authoritarian. A vision of kilts with jackboots?

Now a new public health test is approaching with a November conference being held at The Hague organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) where yet further measures will be discussed (in secret) to roll out more restrictions on nicotine. But this time the target is not so much tobacco as e-cigarettes and other forms of harm reduction which have been replacing conventional cigarettes.

Fresh off the back of its calamitous botching of the Covid-19 pandemic, WHO has launched a worldwide offensive on e-cigarettes and vaping – or as it so creatively terms them: Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, or ENDS.

Defying all logic, and indeed the scientific consensus on ENDS, the WHO has come out swinging against these reduced harm products, lobbying governments across the globe to ban the devices and conflating them with traditional cigarettes.

One could almost forgive the EU for all its pearl-clutching risk aversion in drawing up countless items of legislation dealing with every minute aspect of new products, but the WHO, for whom science ought to be the be all and end all, should know better.

There can be no doubt e-cigs have contributed to hundreds of thousands of people giving up smoking in favour of a far less harmful source of nicotine – saving countless lives in the process – so why is this public health colossus so hellbent on an unprecedented abandonment of logic and reason?

Unfortunately WHO’s all too cosy relationship with China, highlighted over the coronavirus pandemic is about to do further damage in public health policy.

When the US, under Donald Trump, pulled its funding for the WHO, China stepped in and filled the gap, installing its own preferred candidate to the post of director general. Photo-ops with China’s president Xi Jinping and a dismissal of concerns the virus originated in a Chinese virology lab soon followed.

While the Chinese National Tobacco Corporation currently sells cigarettes only to its domestic market, it is the world’s largest tobacco company in volume and number of customers by quite some margin.

It announced recently its intention to expand aggressively into the international market but that ambition would be hamstrung should the rest of the world continue trending towards reduced harm technology like e-cigarettes.

Regardless of why the WHO is acting this way, what matters is that it is – advising our governments to leave the science behind by adopting its proposals. It will simply mean, absurdly, more deaths through more bullying and more control. That might be expected in China, it should not be expected here.

Scotland alone or the UK – whichever you favour – we have to decide what sort of country we want to be.

We need to identify what personal freedoms or independence of choice and action means and stand up to the bullies with their laws – be they faceless global technocrats or local politicians who revel in being the bully in the playground.

- Brian Monteith is editor of ThinkScotland.org and previously served in the Scottish and European Parliaments for the Conservative and Brexit Parties respectively.

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