I can't speak highly enough of this extraordinary labour of love. I've read many books on smoking and this is best by far. It's a superb read. To use that old cliche, it's a page-turner, which is some achievement. It's packed with information but it's also very readable - serious yet hugely entertaining.
Better still, this is no fire-breathing polemic. The amount of research that has gone into it is staggering. And the tone is moderate throughout which is important because it will appeal to a far wider readership.
The book is really very good; it is being launched on the 22nd June, but you can pre-order it on the website (without Chris being hit by Amazon's exorbitant commission). Plus, of course, every copy of the book pre-ordered through the site will be signed by the author...
I highly recommend that you do so, even if such books do not normally appeal to you: as a study of pressure politics, power play and sheer mendacity, it is most instructive. But also, as Simon says, it is a damn good read...
UPDATE: Taking Liberties outlines the grilling that Tory MSP Mary Scanlon gave the head of ASH Scotland recently. This is textbook fake charities stuff (yes, that site will be back up later this evening, hopefully) and reflects precisely the reasons that I had for setting the site up in the first place.
Full marks though to Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon who gave Sheila Duffy (chief executive of ASH Scotland) a thorough workout, especially on the subject of government (ie taxpayer) funding. This exchange was particularly impressive:Mary Scanlon (Highlands and Islands) (Con): The ASH Scotland evidence is highly critical of the funding of the lobby groups from which we heard last week. We asked all the lobby groups where their funding came from and I think that we are aware of how they are all funded. It is only fair that I ask you where ASH Scotland's funding comes from.
Sheila Duffy: ASH Scotland is a registered Scottish charity, so our accounts are publicly available and audited. In common with the national charities that deal with drugs and alcohol, we receive substantial funding from the Government. Because of that, we are reviewed periodically by the Government, which commissions an independent review to look at our cost-effectiveness and funding. I can certainly give you a breakdown of our costs for the previous financial year if that would be helpful.
Mary Scanlon: I do not really want to know your costs; I just want to know where your funding comes from.
Sheila Duffy: Ninety per cent of our funding comes from the Scottish Government; 2 per cent comes from the national health service; 6 per cent comes from other charities such as the British Heart Foundation; and 2 per cent comes from self-generated income and donations from individual supporters. A condition of the public funding that we receive is that we may not use it for campaigning and lobbying. That activity is funded from our earned and voluntary income.
Mary Scanlon: You said that 90 per cent of your funding comes from the Scottish Government. How much is that in cash terms?
Sheila Duffy: In 2008-09 it was £938,000, which went to support a great deal of project work in areas such as inequalities in relation to tobacco, youth development work, partnerships and the development of training for smoking-cessation services.
Mary Scanlon: So, ASH Scotland is receiving nearly £1 million from the Government to fund it to lobby the Government.
Sheila Duffy: No. Under the terms of the funding, we may not use it for lobbying.
Mary Scanlon: You receive nearly £1 million from the Government.
Sheila Duffy: We receive that funding to deliver objectives that are in line with national policy. We are clear and open about the work that we do and the funding that we receive. That is not true of groups that are funded by the tobacco industry. There is no clarity about the tobacco industry—
Mary Scanlon: We heard from those groups last week; they got a good grilling from us all. You are being given nearly £1 million in order to support the Government's national policy on smoking.
Sheila Duffy: I must take issue with that statement, because the money that we are being given is to support objectives and outcomes that are in line with national health policies, including—
Mary Scanlon: Which are determined by the Government. The Government determines national health policies and it gives you nearly £1 million to lobby on those policies.
Sheila Duffy: I must be clear about the point that the public funding that we receive may not be used for lobbying purposes. It is for delivering services and projects that are in line with public health policy in Scotland.
Mary Scanlon: So, of the nearly £1 million, how much is used for lobbying? Can you give us a rough guesstimate in percentage terms?
Sheila Duffy: I have not looked at the exact percentage, but a really tiny percentage of direct spend goes on lobbying. That work tends to be shared with other health charities whose aims are similar to ours.
Full report HERE.
Of course, since ASH Scotland was set up by the government in order to support government objectives, they do not need to spend lots of their cash on lobbying: the government is already on their side because they are simply an unaccountable arm of the government. They are, in fact, a textbook example of a fake charity.
And Mary Scanlon might be my new political hero—I wonder if she is aware of fakecharities.org...?