South Scotland

Car smoking ban MSP welcomes backing of Scottish government

Person smoking in car with a small child in the back seat Image copyright PA
Image caption Motorists could be fined £100 if the bill becomes law

The Liberal Democrat MSP behind a bill to ban smoking in cars when children are present has welcomed the support of the Scottish government.

South of Scotland MSP Jim Hume launched the members' bill in December.

The government said it was "very supportive" of the principles of the bill, but changes could be needed to make it "workable".

Motorists could potentially be fined £100 for breaching the rule if it becomes law.

Mr Hume lodged draft proposals for a bill last May calling for a ban in Scotland on smoking in private vehicles when children under 18 were present.

He said he was "over the moon" at the news the Scottish government would endorse the Smoking Prohibition (Children in Motor Vehicles) (Scotland) Bill.

He said: "With cross-party support and the support of many third sector organisations, there is every chance that this could be in place in the next year.

"Eighty-four per cent of the 160 responses to my consultation were positive and people from across Scotland have expressed their support for the move.

"The bill is about guaranteeing that children in Scotland can have the freedom to go on and lead healthy lives if they choose to.

"I look forward to working with MSPs from all parties as the bill progresses."

Public Health Minister Maureen Watt said the Scottish government had considered including the measure in its Public Health Bill, but instead decided to support Mr Hume's proposals.

She said: "As with any bill, as it goes through the scrutiny process, there may be amendments and improvements to strengthen the legislation and ensure it is fit for purpose.

"But we believe that the underpinning principles are strong, and that is why I am pleased to support it."

'Awareness campaign'

Scottish Labour and a wide range of health organisations have backed his proposals.

But the Scottish Conservatives have reservations about how the bill would work in practice.

The party's health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: "While Scottish Conservatives support any moves which would protect young people from hazardous second hand smoke we have concerns as to how this would be enforced.

"It would be a better use of resources to conduct a public awareness campaign similar to that which is being proposed by the government in Wales.

"We will be watching this campaign in order to ascertain what lessons may be learned and what approaches may be adopted in Scotland."

'Tobacco free'

Anti-smoking campaigners welcomed the Scottish government's backing for Mr Hume's bill.

ASH Scotland's chief executive Sheila Duffy said: "It is another public health initiative that can help Scotland move forward with its ambition to achieve a tobacco-free generation in 20 years' time.

"It is popular with the public and will bring Scotland into line with upcoming legislation in England and Wales.

"We believe it can be effectively enforced and that having the legislation focus on cars with children bypasses concerns over interference in people's private lives.

"Jim Hume must be congratulated for taking the initiative on this proposal and for all the hard work he and his team have done to bring this important measure forward."

But Simon Clark, director of the smokers' group Forest, said the bill was "legislation for legislation's sake".

He said: "Smoking in cars carrying children is inconsiderate. The overwhelming majority of smokers know that and don't do it.

"The very small number that do will carry on regardless because the law will be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.

"Education has to be better than legislation but the government prefers gesture politics and the big stick."

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