Brian Monteith: We're not even safe from McNanny State at home

Do you live in a council house or rent from a housing association and smoke? Well this week's column is for you.
Smoking could be banned in council and housing association homes. Picture: Ian RutherfordSmoking could be banned in council and housing association homes. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Smoking could be banned in council and housing association homes. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Maybe you don’t tick that box, but maybe you do like the occasional bottle of wine as you sit back and watch a favourite box set, or maybe you use the two-for-one pizza deal to stretch your last pennies for the kids’ treat? Well this week’s column is for you too.

Last week the Scottish Government published its tobacco control strategy with proposals that will see smoking banned in your own home if you rent it from the council or a housing association – and in the stair wells and common gardens too.

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What I especially find appalling is there is no great demand for these new laws. Where are the marches down the Royal Mile to protest outside Holyrood? Where are the placards saying “Ban Smoking in Council Houses NOW!”

Where are the people chaining themselves to the railings at Bute House demanding Nicola Sturgeon acts to protect children from seeing their worn out mums or harassed dads smoking in the house? Where is the petition by irate locals demanding their street corner newsagents and grocers stop selling tobacco?

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None of this happens because most people are sick to the back teeth of being told how to run their lives and take pleasure in the small things that get them through the pain, drudgery and the hardships they often face.

I can say this with certainty because the latest poll from Populus tells us Scots think we already have enough restrictions on smoking, indeed it says we want them relaxed. People don’t want smoking banned in prisons (which will only make them a tinderbox), in hospital grounds (which only punishes patients already stressed-out enough) and they certainly don’t want it banned in their homes.

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New bans happen because the Scottish Government pays huge sums of taxpayers money (£604,798 in 2017) to anti-smoking campaign group ASH Scotland which then lobbies to introduce ban after ban after ban. Oh, and in case you think smoking has nothing to do with you, the government applies the same methods to control your drinking of alcohol and eating of burgers and pizzas it has used to shame and stigmatise smokers. It’s no coincidence ASH Scotland’s chair, Mary Cuthbert, is also the chair of Alcohol Focus Scotland – a body that wants to restrict your drinking. The CEOs of both organisations also work jointly in lobbying government ministers for more restrictions like the minimum price of alcohol that shoved prices up. First the anti-smoking puritans came for the buses and trains. Fair enough. Then it was the offices. We could live with that. Then it was the pubs and restaurants – and got serious. I, and others, said it would eventually be our homes and that “children” would be the excuse – and so it has now come to pass.

Now it’s going to be the council houses, then it will be the private rented sector, then it will be every home in the land.

What we now have in Scotland is the McNanny State, and Nicola Sturgeon is McNanny-in-Chief.

She has cheered on every possible ban, every restriction, every extra tax to control your lifestyle and to limit your choices.

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Do you honestly think that Nicola Sturgeon knows better than you or what’s best for you and your family? Do you think she should have the right to deny you of some of the pleasures in life that ordinary folk use to get them through the challenges they face?

The one ban we need is to stop taxpayers’ money going to ASH Scotland which lobbies the government for more interventions (and in turn receives more money from government). If that’s not a conflict of interest I don’t know what is.

The practice is banned in England and to protect taxpayers in Scotland, including taxpayers who smoke, it should be banned here too.