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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 January, 2005, 19:19 GMT
Smoke ban role for Sarah Davidson
Ex-Holyrood project director Sarah Davidson
Sarah Davidson surveys the Holyrood construction site
The former Holyrood project director has been given the job of leading the executive's anti-smoking drive.

Sarah Davidson will earn up to 75,000 as head of the new tobacco control division in Scotland.

It will help to implement the ban on smoking in public places, which is due to come into force by March 2006.

Despite her lack of construction experience, Ms Davidson was appointed Holyrood project director in June 2001 but resigned before it was finished.

News of her appointment emerged emerged as the parliament's health committee heard the first evidence on the Smoking, Health and Social Care Bill on Tuesday.

Ms Davidson obviously relishes a challenge and taking on tasks that are unpopular and largely unnecessary
Scottish Tory spokesman

She left the Holyrood job in June 2004 to go travelling for six months with her new husband, the Rev James Aitken.

The health department refused to comment on the exact details of the her appointment but said it was "right and proper" to have dedicated staff responsible for seeing through "one of the most important pieces of work" to be carried out since devolution.

The Tories, who oppose a total smoking ban in public places, predicted more tough times ahead for Ms Davidson.

A spokesman said: "Ms Davidson obviously relishes a challenge and taking on tasks that are unpopular and largely unnecessary.

"The only silver lining may be that if a ban is ever to be brought in it is likely to be years later than we originally thought."

Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said she was surprised Ms Davidson had been given such a high-profile role, suggesting the civil servant should have taken a "quieter" job.

She told the Edinburgh Evening News: "This is not good public relations because Ms Davidson did not leave her last job trailing clouds of glory behind her."

Similar bill

The committee also published its findings into a similar bill lodged by Nationalist MSP Stewart Maxwell last year.

It backed the general principles of Mr Maxwell's proposed legislation, the Prohibition of Smoking in Regulated Areas Bill, "in so far as they go".

The committee said: "It is the view of the majority of the committee that a partial ban on smoking in enclosed public places is not sufficient to achieve the objectives of the bill and that therefore, the bill does not go far enough.

"This point appears to have been conceded by the member in charge of the bill.

"The committee acknowledges that in any case, the bill may have been overtaken by events."
The threat of passive smoking has been exaggerated out of all proportion and it's time that politicians got a grip of the facts
Simon Clark
Forest

Mr Maxwell insisted his bill, the current provisions of which would ban smoking where food is served, could be amended and implemented before the executive's own legislation.

Simon Clark, director of smokers' lobby group Forest, attacked the MSPs' report as "entirely predictable".

He said: "Some members had clearly made up their minds even before they heard all the evidence and the report simply reflects their anti-smoking mindset.

"The threat of passive smoking has been exaggerated out of all proportion and it's time that politicians got a grip of the facts."

Ministers, supporters and opponents of the smoking ban will give evidence to the committee in the coming weeks.




SEE ALSO:
Tories demand smoking ban debate
03 Jan 05 |  Scotland
Holyrood boss takes travel break
27 Apr 04 |  Scotland
Project director defends her role
31 Mar 04 |  Scotland
Holyrood director defends role
01 Jul 01 |  Scotland


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