Smoking Ban (Assessment)

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 29th March 2007.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat 12:00 pm, 29th March 2007

To ask the First Minister what assessment has been made of the impact of the first year of the ban on smoking in enclosed public places. (S2F-2810)

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Studies so far have indicated that air pollution in pubs has dropped by 86 per cent and that the health of bar workers has dramatically improved. I am certain that the ban has given Scotland an improved reputation elsewhere. I am also confident that the longer-term impact of the ban will be to improve people's health and to reduce the burden on the national health service.

Photo of Euan Robson Euan Robson Liberal Democrat

If one of the hallmarks of the second session of the Parliament was the ban, does the First Minister believe that a hallmark of the next session ought to be a reduction in the instances of long-term conditions, in particular respiratory diseases, and better provision for those who suffer from them?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

Both of those points are important. I hope that the Parliament will continue to tackle them in the next session. We can all be very proud of much of the legislation that has been passed in this four-year session, but the ban on smoking in public places was a particularly brave decision by the Parliament. It has transformed Scotland's reputation and made a major contribution to the fact that we now have one of the fastest growing tourism industries in Europe. It will lead to improved public health in the years to come and is an example of the kind of policy we should adopt in the Parliament in our third session, when we will take further brave decisions that secure Scotland's long-term future.

Photo of Stewart Maxwell Stewart Maxwell Scottish National Party

I welcome the First Minister's comments on the success of the first year of the smoking ban, although I remind him what he said a few short years ago. According to The Scotsman in 2004

"Jack McConnell, the First Minister, has stated that his preference would not be for a total ban."

The Sun said that the First Minister

"shied away from a total ban."

The Evening News said that the First Minister

"has ruled out suggestions that could lead to a complete ban on smoking in public places."

According to The Herald, the First Minister said that an overall ban would be impractical. Given his complete support for the ban now, does the First Minister regret his previous comments in 2003 and 2004 opposing a ban? Does he find it rather embarrassing that when I lodged a motion supporting a ban on smoking in public places, not one, solitary, Labour member supported it?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

In the spirit in which the question was asked, I point out that, in the first session—before Stewart Maxwell was in the Parliament—Hugh Henry proposed a ban on smoking in public places. I have never said that before in the chamber because I am not interested in who claims the credit; I am interested in improving the health of the people of Scotland. I point out, for the benefit of Stewart Maxwell and other SNP members, that if there is one difference between me and Alex Salmond, it is that I listen. I can change my mind, I can listen to the people of Scotland and I can then deliver a policy such as that. That is something that Alex Salmond has never proven able to do.

Photo of Irene Oldfather Irene Oldfather Labour

Will the First Minister give a commitment that, when he returns next month as First Minister, he will continue to promote the healthy living agenda that has been so successful in this session of Parliament? Will he consider, in the new session, extending the smoking ban in ways that will protect children and young people in particular, for example by examining the effects of smoking on young people in cars and some outside areas?

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour

There is further action that we can take in relation to young people in particular—I am sure that each of the parties will comment on that over the next five weeks. We should build on the public support that has been shown for the anti-smoking legislation by promoting an agenda for public health in Scotland. I believe that such an agenda can secure the same consensus and the same broad support. I look forward over the next few years to building on the sense of national pride that the smoking ban has delivered, to ensure that, across Scotland, particularly in poorer communities that have suffered as a result of ill health for decades—even centuries—we can turn round the health of the whole community, and not just those who smoke.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

Members will be aware that this final plenary meeting of the second session of the Scottish Parliament will continue for another 20 minutes or so. I ask Murray Tosh and Trish Godman, as Deputy Presiding Officers, to join me on the podium.