CLAIRE Black is right to highlight the length of time it is taking for Scotland to be allowed to implement a minimum unit price for alcohol (“Don’t delay law that will save lives,” 23 August).
In June 2012 the Scottish Government passed legislation mandating a 50p minimum unit price of alcohol to try and limit the availability of alcohol. However, implementation of this has been held up by legal challenges from the Scotch Whisky Association.
In the coming week, the opinion of the Advocate General on minimum unit pricing will be published, which will inform the final decision of the European Court of Justice. Whatever the content of this opinion, it will still be some time before the legal process comes to an end, and in the meantime, 20 people a week are dying from alcohol-related causes.
There is clear evidence that increasing price will reduce consumption and thereby reduce the health harms associated with excessive drinking.
While our position is based on evidence, industry opposition to minimum unit pricing is based on opinion and a primary concern about profits.
By trying to delay the introduction of public health measures, the alcohol industry is acting against the public interest, and I would urge the SWA to drop their challenge to help protect Scotland from the dangers of easily accessible, cheap alcohol.
Dr Peter Bennie, chair, BMA Scottish Council, Edinburgh
Technology benefits all
MILES Fielding (Letter, 23 August) claimed that the public has “always been wary of technology”.
In October 2000, the Office of Science and Technology and the Wellcome Trust published A Review of Science Communication and Public Attitudes to Science in Britain.
This found that three-quarters of the British population were “amazed” by the achievements of science. Largely this is because they can see the benefits for themselves. Two-thirds agreed that science and technology are making our lives healthier, easier and more comfortable.
Eight out of ten people agreed that Britain needs to develop science and technology in order to enhance its international competitiveness. The need to invest in basic research was also appreciated: 72 per cent agreed that, even if it brings no immediate benefits, scientific research that advances knowledge is necessary and should be supported by the government.
When asked whether they thought the benefits of science are greater than any harmful effects, the response was ambivalent: 43 per cent agreed, 17 per cent disagreed, and a third preferred to give no opinion.
Other surveys have found similar results and none of these findings supports Mr Fielding’s claim.
Steuart Campbell, Edinburgh
Party ideology versus reason
AS A scientist I have followed the debate on GM crops on the letters pages with interest. All correspondents make good points so it would seem that whether genetic modification of foodstuffs is all good or all bad is not clear.
What is of most concern to me about the SNP Government’s policy is that it was not accompanied by a detailed report justifying the decision. The same is true for fracking, which will not take place in Scotland until there is further evidence on its safety, which is a reasonable position except nothing is being done to gather this evidence.
A country supplied entirely by renewable energy would be economically and environmentally a good thing. Scotland is far from achieving this and with the decline of the oil industry, coal seam gas can provide much needed energy and jobs.
No political party uses scientific evidence and research as it should. The SNP, being ideologically driven, seem particularly keen to make decisions to please their support rather than based on reason. To them it seems the Enlightenment never happened.
Dr SJ Clark, Edinburgh
Boyd Orr and the GM ban
LORD Boyd Orr’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded for his work as an advocate for an effective world food programme, notably as the first director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, not for his scientific research (Drumlanrig, 23 August). He kept his Scottish nationalism very quiet, both in his autobiography and as an MP elected for the Scottish Universities in 1945. At the prize award ceremony the chair of the Nobel award committee said: “He has always been opposed to those who attach too much significance to national frontiers and those who place their sovereignty rights above all else.”
The Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, founded by Boyd Orr, has been dedicated to the application of science to the improvement of animal and human nutrition, but never played a “leading role” in developing GM technology.
Nevertheless, if Boyd Orr was still around, my guess is that he would side with other leading scientists, like the last Scottish Government scientific adviser, Muffy Calder, in opposing the decision of the Scottish Government to ban the cultivation of GM crops on political, but not scientific or evidence-based, grounds.
Hugh Pennington, Aberdeen
Threat of Corbyn petrifies Labour
LABOUR has surely made itself unelectable: who could possibly take it seriously after its bizarre reaction to Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity? Stabbing in the back used to be a secretive activity; now even one of his candidate rivals has openly joined in plotting to deny him party leadership.
What really petrifies Labour parliamentarians is the prospect of him as prime minister. Yet I wonder: how many of them would seek alternative employment, rather than present themselves as candidates at the next election?
Robert Dow, Tranent