The Scottish Government’s pioneering work to reduce the harm caused by alcohol has been honoured with a European Award. Was that reported?

It was on the 23rd November 2016. I’ve just come across it and was surprised to see it. I can’t recall it being reported and certainly not broadcast proudly. I might have missed it but it would have been a big headline wouldn’t it? It was before I went into hospital so I would have been watching all the time. I’ve searched but can’t find any mainstream Scottish media report of it.

So, a wee bit late in the day, I’d like to trumpet it.

I found seven online links including on the BMA and other health-promoting agencies’ websites but not one TV or newspaper site. The Herald reported six awards in 2016 but not this one. THE BBC gave more awards than I wanted to count but they seemed to be all for sport, music or baking.

Here are some extracts from the Alcohol Focus Scotland site:

‘The European Reducing Alcohol Harm award was given in recognition of a “comprehensive range” of measures including the multi-buy discount ban, lowering the drink-drive limit and legislating for minimum unit pricing.

It was announced at the seventh European Alcohol Policy Conference in Slovenia, attended by health ministers, scientists and public health officials from across the European Union.

Aileen Campbell, Minister for Public Health and Sport, said:

“It’s a huge honour that Scotland has been given this award in recognition of our work to reduce the damage caused by alcohol. This award is a tribute to all the people in Scotland who work with those affected by alcohol.

“The Scottish Government has over 40 measures designed to reduce alcohol-related harm. We have legislated to end multi-buy discounts and the irresponsible promotion of alcohol products, introduced a nationwide programme of alcohol brief interventions and lowered the drink drive limit. We’ve also invested significantly in specialist treatment and care services to help those with alcohol problems.

“We remain absolutely committed to introduce minimum unit pricing as soon as possible. Of course I was deeply disappointed that this life-saving policy has been further delayed by another legal challenge from the Scotch Whisky Association last week. However, the policy has been ruled lawful twice in the Scottish courts and I am confident the Supreme Court will come to the same conclusion if this latest appeal proceeds.

“Alcohol misuse is costing Scotland £3.6 billion a year and it kills around 22 people a week. So we will continue our work to reduce this harm, and will shortly be publishing a refreshed alcohol strategy for Scotland to build on the progress so far.”

Announcing the award, Mariann Skar, Secretary General of Eurocare (The European Alcohol Policy Alliance), said:

“The first European Award for Reducing Alcohol Harm Award is awarded to the Scottish Government in recognition of its actions to develop and implement a comprehensive range of evidence-based alcohol policies, and specifically its battle to implement minimum unit pricing, in the face of sustained opposition by global alcohol producers. Scotland is recognised as an international beacon for evidence-based alcohol policies, making the improvement of the health of its population a top priority.

The Alcohol Focus Scotland site also reported on the feasibility of Minimum pricing.

Reacting to the Court of Session ruling that minimum unit pricing for alcohol is legal and can be implemented in Scotland, Alison Douglas Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said:

This is a great day for Scotland’s health! Minimum pricing is widely supported by doctors, social workers, children’s charities and many more who want to get rid of the cheap vodkas and super-strength ciders that cause so much damage.

Scotland has been waiting more than four years to implement this policy which will prevent thousands of hospital admissions and crimes, and save hundreds of lives. We hope that minimum pricing will now be put in place as quickly as possible so we can start seeing the benefits.

Have my apologies, if this award was widely known and I just missed it. If it was widely ignored by our mainstream media, then I’m glad I posted it. We don’t get enough good news.

‘Seismic shift in maternity services’ say midwives on Scottish National Maternity Review. This is a very welcome report and one that has the full support of the Royal College of Midwives. ‘It’s not that good’ says Reporting Scotland

22nd January 2016

On 20th January, 2017, the midwives national body released exactly these words:


Today the Scottish Government has published its national maternity review ‘The Best Start – A Five Year Forward Plan for Maternity and Neonatal Care in Scotland’. Commenting on the Plan, Mary Ross-Davie, Director for Scotland at the Royal College of Midwives, said; “This is a very welcome report and one that has the full support of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM).

That evening, STV did a very short factual report headed:

‘The Royal College of Midwives says the recommendations [Scottish Government] have the potential to revolutionise care.’

Reporting Scotland allocated more time, acknowledged the radical nature of the changes but didn’t find time for the RCW’s statement of ‘full support’. That’s unusual, because they usually have time for any Royal College criticising Scottish Government initiatives. They did, however, have time to insert their usual wee evidence-free and source-free scare stories:

‘Across the country experiences differ, services are under strain, staffing levels, pressure on beds, more complicated births.’

‘Over 40% of midwives are in their 50s and 60s.’

Now, none of that was in any of the reports. They just decided we might like to be reminded that the Government Report and the RCW had both forgotten to scare us with anything.

The only source for the latter point I could find was on their own website in 2015. Here’s a part of it:

  • the percentage of staff aged 50 or more rose from 32% of the workforce in 2011 to 42% in 2014
  • but there is not a shortage of midwives in Scotland.

Note, the data is now two years-old. We can’t see just how many or how few of those over 50 were also over 60. That would be important I’d say. Note the second point?

Have that dastardly Scottish Government been ignoring this imaginary threat? See this also from as early as 14th January 2014:

‘Seven per cent rise in students starting degrees.

The number of student nurses and midwives entering degree programmes funded by the Scottish Government this year is to increase by almost seven per cent.

A total of 2,698 students will begin their training in October this year, which is a 6.6 per cent increase on the 2013/14 figure of 2,530.

In particular, the number of student midwives beginning training will increase from 140 to 160, which is a 14.3 per cent increase, and the number of new children’s nursing students will increase from 203 to 245, which is a 20.7 per cent increase.’

I’m not going to waste time rebutting the other parts of Reporting Scotland’s typical scare story.

This is classic propaganda designed to create anxiety. Creating generalised anxiety is the only convincing media affect known to researchers. Anxiety makes you fearful of change and likely to vote for the status quo when it comes to elections. Sadly, it’s probably working.

15 to 6! ‘Weaponising’ Scotland’s Health Service: How BBC Scotland is developing a new Project Fear: Part 2: 1st to 20th January 2017

I’ve been keeping a note, for Reporting Scotland and STV since 1st January 2017. I plan, of course to release a more full report later but I think there’s a place for interim reports so here’s the second. I’ll be comparing BBC and STV evening news broadcasts to use the latter as a kind of benchmark for what is reasonable and not openly anti-independence propaganda. I’m now fairly sure that STV have made a commercial decision not to drive away their many Yes-supporting viewers, in the interests of maintaining their advertising revenue.

In the first seven days to the 10th January we had 7 reports with the potential to undermine Scottish Government management of the NHS, on BBC Reporting Scotland and only 3 on STV. Further, the STV reports tended to offer more contextual information to put the reports into scale and perspective. You can see the detail of the first set of stories at:

From the 11th January, on Reporting Scotland, we had:

11th nothing

12th First Minister under fire for delays in new trauma centres, targets for A&E not met since September, only one out of all eight targets met

13th A health board apologises to five pregnant mothers who were turned away [7 miles] from the maternity unit a Glasgow’s ‘flagship’ hospital because of a shortage of beds

14th Nothing

15th The Chair of the BMA in Scotland is warning that the NHS [Scotland] could be moving toward ‘system breakdown.’

16Th Nothing

17th Waiting time target for A&E missed for first week in January, delays to Trauma centres

18th Nothing

19th Re HIV cases surviving in 50s but ‘leading charity is worrying about what it describes as as a social care time bomb.’

So, that was eight scares in these nine days. STV were only to cover the delay in the traumas centres on the 11th, the missed A&E targets on the 17th and to repeat the delay in the trauma centres story on the 18th. So, for STV, there were only 3 comparable stories.

From the 1st to 19th January, we now had BBC Scotland reporting often very dramatically 15 scare stories about NHS Scotland while STV reported only 6.

I’ve discussed the actual flaws in the reports which make them clearly ‘scare stories’ rather than responsible news reporting elsewhere on this site.

The picture is now even clearer than it was a week ago. BBC Reporting Scotland remains, it seems,  desperate to undermine the Scottish Government at every turn using, irresponsibly, NHS Scotland as a weapon.

The possible negative effects on potential patients, patients, relatives and staff, of this strategy, are discussed more fully and referenced with evidence at:

Is BBC Reporting Scotland’s ‘Weaponising’ of NHS Scotland likely to actually increase both physical and mental health problems?


Are Scotland’s emission cuts goals ambitious and world-leading as most suggest or too much of a ‘technofix’ as only Reporting Scotland finds?



20th January 2017

‘Environmental groups say Scotland’s draft climate change plan is too much of a technofix.’

That was Reporting Scotland’s opening line in their pretty negative report on Scotland’s new draft proposals to cut emissions. They had nothing to say about Scotland’s achievements so far and spent much of the time on another of their Primary 6 class lessons explaining to the viewers that energy generation, agriculture and transport were the main culprits. Raise your hands those in the class who knew that already? Oh, everyone? Watching school experience tutor writes: ‘lesson content not checked against previous knowledge – fail.’

The only environmental group representative we heard from was Tom Ballantine of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (Heard of them?) who said mildly:

‘I don’t think it does go far enough on areas like transport and agriculture’

The term ‘technofix’ was never repeated nor explained. I had a search to see if I could find it. It’s in the BBC website report once as in the above broadcast statement but not directly attributed to any group. I did find it in a WWF report from 2009 but other than that, only on other BBC Scotland reports.

However, across the rest of the media talking about Scotland and greenhouse gas emissions, I found a very different take and a much more encouraging story than Reporting Scotland’s almost instinctive negativity about anything Scotland achieves. From Business Green on January 19 2017, see this:

‘Scotland already leads the UK and many of its European neighbours in terms of its greenhouse gas emission cuts, having exceeded its 2020 carbon reduction target six years early by slashing emissions 46 per cent compared to 1990 levels by 2014.’

On the same day, the Guardian newspaper headlined and enthused with:

Scotland sets ambitious goal of 66% emissions cut within 15 years’

In one of the world’s most ambitious climate strategies, ministers in Edinburgh have unveiled far tougher targets to increase the use of ultra-low-carbon cars, green electricity and green home heating by 2032.’

Two days earlier, the Scotsman headlined:

We’re at forefront of a world of change.’

STV News on the same night (19th) was also free of attempts to find fault, opening with:

‘The Scottish Government is setting tough new targets for cutting two thirds of emissions by 2032. Ministers say it’s one of the most ambitious and detailed climate change plans ever but achieving it will mean everyone cutting their carbon emissions, using less power in their homes and at work.’

That last point seems to undercut and contradict the Reporting Scotland headline.

As for of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, comments by them in the same Scotsman piece finds them much more content, indeed glowingly impressed, with the Scottish government’s efforts so far:

The Scottish Government and Parliament are also unusual in their willingness to accept climate change is, first and foremost, an issue of justice. Scotland’s Climate Justice Fund was the first in the world, and provides welcome recognition of the need to address fundamental imbalances of power, resources and responsibility across the world when considering our response to climate change. That is why Stop Climate Chaos Scotland warmly welcomes the participation of Roseanna Cunningham, the Scottish Government’s cabinet secretary for environment, climate change and land reform, who spent the last few days in Marrakech sharing these, and other, positive Scottish examples with delegates from around the world.’

So, here we are once more, dismayed by Reporting Scotland’s desperation not to report favourably on the efforts of the SNP-led Scottish Government lest we think we’re kind of capable and could go it alone. Look at the praise for Scotland everywhere else in the media and recognise BBC Scotland News cannot be reformed but must be replaced.

The Grudge: How BBC Scotland cannot bear to give credit

19th January 2017

‘The previous interim target of 42% [reduction in greenhouse emissions] was met in 2014, six years early!’

Isn’t that brilliant, good new on a Scottish Government target? Oh, no wait a minute, she’s not finished:

‘But the Committee on Climate Change said that the decrease was largely* down to a warmer than average winter reducing the demand for heating.’

Ah, not so good then? That was the BBC Scotland report announcing new targets and reflecting on previous progress at 06.30 am today.

You might remember this really good news on wind power, from January 10th,

‘The total amount of wind energy produced on Christmas Eve was also the highest ever, with more than 74,000MWh sent to the National Grid – equivalent to the average daily electricity needs of 6.09 million homes. And, as energy use fell on Christmas Day, wind turbines provided 153 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs.’

Thirteen other news agencies including the ScotsmanSTV and reddit also enthused about this ‘massive progress’! Who could have missed it? Oh yes, our massively staffed and resourced  ‘national broadcaster’, BBC Reporting Scotland found no time for this story.  Presumably they couldn’t find a ‘but’ for that one. Wasn’t it just freakishly windy that day? That would do.

Anyhow, back to the Committee on Climate Change which said that the decrease was largely down to a warmer than average winter reducing the demand for heating.’

I found the report with the above words, sort of, at:

As you might expect the key points summarised in the report are much more positive than the extraction of that one phrase used by BBC Scotland suggests. Here they are from page 8 of the report:

Scotland is performing well, especially compared to other countries in the UK and the UK as a whole, although much more needs to be done. Our key messages from this analysis are:

  • The annual target for 2014 was met: Net emissions fell 13% in 2014 to 41.886 MtCO2e which is 5.1 MtCO2e below the target. Scotland therefore met its legislated target. Emissions in 2014 were 45.8% lower than 1990 levels. The fall in emissions was largely due to a fall in Scotland’s share of the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) and warmer than average winter temperatures reducing the demand for heating in buildings. However, a part of the reduction was from domestic action. The Scottish Government are on track to meet their 2020 target.

*Notice the word  ‘largely’ is used differently from the BBC News report?

  • Scotland performed better than the UK as a whole in 2014: Gross Scottish greenhouse gas emissions, including international aviation and shipping, fell 8.6% in 2014. This compares to a 7.3% fall for the UK as a whole. Since 1990, gross Scottish emissions have fallen nearly 40%, compared to nearly 33% at a UK level.
  • Scottish Government is largely implementing the Committee’s recommendations from our 2015 progress report: many of our 2015 recommendations are in the process of being implemented but there are notable exceptions in agriculture. The next set of policies and proposals will also have to address increased ambition required by Scottish targets (see below).
  • Scotland has made good progress in a number of areas and is often leading the UK: There has been good progress in deploying renewable electricity generation capacity, and excellent progress in installing community and locally-owned energy projects (meeting their target for 500 MW of capacity early). Energy efficiency policy is well developed, especially compared to that in England, although this is yet to be reflected fully in emission reductions. 8 Reducing emissions in Scotland: 2016 Progress Report | Committee on Climate Change The Government is aiming for an integrated approach to reducing emissions from all buildings by reducing demand, improving energy efficiency and installing low-carbon heat. Progress has also been good in the waste sector with emissions falling 13% in 2014 and the introduction of a circular economy strategy and a Scottish Food Waste Reduction target.

Not a perfect report, I know, but still worth mentioning the achievements? Maybe BBC Scotland could do a full documentary? Title:

‘Scotland leads the UK in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.’

STV News gets it all wrong on delayed patient discharges

18th January 2017

As both Reporting Scotland and STV News, last night, headlined NHS scare stories, STV News stumbled over the trend in delayed patient discharge from Scottish hospitals. Here’s what they said:

‘And there has been little sign of improvement in the problem of delayed discharge from hospital.’

They mentioned that 1 509 people were delayed in November 2016 but they didn’t tell us, crucially, of any of these contextual factors:

  1. The 1 509 represented a reduction from 1 576 from October or 4.3%
  2. That represented a delay in days lost to bed-blocking from 48 104 to 45 639 or 5.1%
  3. This was on top of a 9% decrease on 2014/2015
  4. That some boards had been improving at a massively higher rate with, for example, Inverclyde down 54%!
  5. That NHS Scotland in 2015/2016 dealt with 1 622 547 cases so delayed discharges at the reported levels is a very small element in their performance
  6. That Scotland can cope much better than England with bed blocking as we have 4.67 beds per 1 000 population whereas NHS England has only 2.95 per 1000.

Remember also that with each decrease it becomes more difficult to make further decreases from a smaller and probably more complex, older (75% over 75) and difficult to place population so going from 9% delayed discharges to 4.3% is not necessarily failing in any way.

Here are the board-by-board figures which show quite dramatic improvements taking place in many of them:

Shetland Islands (56% reduction),

Inverclyde (54%),

West Dunbartonshire (38%),

East Renfrewshire (38%),

North Ayrshire (35%), Glasgow City (31%),

Angus (30%),

Midlothian (25%),

East Dunbartonshire (24%),

East Ayrshire (24%),

Dumfries and Galloway (21%),

East Lothian (20%),

Aberdeen (19%),

Falkirk (18%),

West Lothian (17%),

Aberdeenshire (17%),

Renfrewshire (16%)

Stirling (10%).


However the number of bed days occupied by delayed discharge patients has increased in:


Orkney (42% increase),

Perth and Kinross (26%),

Dundee City (23%), North Lanarkshire

(21%), Highland (11%),

Clackmannanshire (8%),

South Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire and Fife (5%),

Argyll and Bute (3%).

The above do not suggest a national problem that can be blamed on the Scottish Government but rather the need for some boards to learn from others and to improve themselves.


Is everything in Scotland ‘near breaking point?’



17th January 2017

We’ve heard over the last few days, from the BMA leader, that NHS Scotland is ‘near breaking point.’ Indeed, in Sunday’s interview (15.1.97) with Gordon Brewer, he and the Tory MSP interviewed used the phrase about ten times. Neither, of course, offered any evidence but merely anecdote. The claims from a highly partisan trade unionist in pursuit of 4% extra funding, or ‘we’re all emigrating’, and that’s all they were, claims, were then plastered all over the Unionist media.

Have you noticed that in Scotland it’s always worryingly ‘near’ for viewers and readers but not here yet? That means you can make sensational claims about SNP incompetence and then conveniently forget about them when they do not come to pass. NHS Scotland’s ‘near’ crisis did not materialise and the media gaze seems to have turned away already, looking for other ‘might-happen-crises’ in other sectors of SNP responsibility.

Today, in all the same media outlets, we had the news that the relationship between Scottish teachers and the Scottish Qualification Agency (SQA) is just as strained:

‘Teacher and Scottish exam board relations ‘near breaking point’ (Scotsman, 17.1.17)

My fourth and last child is in Year 6 locally. I’ve never heard any of her teachers complaining about the SQA or CfE. Here’s the source for these dramatic claims:

‘The evidence our committee [Education] received was nothing less than eye opening about some of the problems faced by those working so hard on the front line of education.’

Now, the Education and Skills Committee meets tomorrow, 18th January 2017 and the Committee’s report on the performance of Education Scotland and SQA will be published on Tuesday 17th January. Yet, the claims in the media were published on the 16th. I’m puzzled. Maybe they brought it all forward. Either way, this is not my main criticism of the headlines.

You, see, we don’t know what kind of survey this was. If you do a self-selecting survey of any profession (GPs, nurses, social workers and especially teachers who I know from personal experience incubate discontent and infect each other daily with it) then the disgruntled will be straight in there to moan and the majority will not be heard. If you really want to know accurately what is going on you have to do proper research with a representative, anonymised and randomised sample and have it carried out by an independent research agency with no axes to grind. I’m pretty sure the report presented to the Scottish Parliament’s Education committee, whenever it is, will be of the former unreliable kind loved only by the bad news merchants in the Unionist media.

I could be wrong. I cannot find the actual full report with methodology. If I or any of you find it and it is a piece of ‘proper’ research, I’ll eat something.

Four papers, all dated vaguely ‘January 2017’, have been tabled prior to the meeting and are available at:

They are from the EIS, The Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scottish Government and Education and SQA. I’ve had a look at them all. THE EIS report mentions no survey and certainly no ‘breaking points’ and is, in fact quite positive:

‘In our submission to Scottish Government’s Review of Educational Governance, the EIS highlighted a social partnership approach as being one of Scottish Education’s greatest strengths.’

The Royal Society of Edinburgh paper is merely a set of question for the Education Committee’s management board and makes absolutely no statements suggesting evidence of any crisis nor does it mention any ‘breaking points.’

The Scottish Government and Education paper is largely descriptive but notably contradicts the media suggestions that the OECD’s research was critical of the SQA’s Curriculum for Excellence:

‘14. The OECD review, Improving Schools in Scotland: AN OECD Perspective (2015) specifically discussed Curriculum for Excellence governance. It states that “the CfE Management board, comprising a wide range of representative stakeholders in Scottish education, occupies a central position in directing Curriculum for Excellence. This arrangement has been well fitted to the task of implementing CfE as a Scotland-wide curriculum programme. That task required consensus and managing processes so that implementation, including of assessment and qualifications, would happen as smoothly as possible.”

Finally, the SQA report itself does not identify any problems, as you might expect.

So where is the ‘eye-opening’ evidence of a system at ‘breaking point?’  Did some at the actual meeting express such views? Oh, no, that’s tomorrow. I know, some disgruntled individual, either of the Unionist parties or in some way induced by them to do so, has been interviewed by the Unionist media and dished the dirt, knowing that the committee itself will be less ‘newsworthy.’ The agenda does list some likely candidates for a bit of stirring. See them at: