Sense About Scotland?

by endlesspsych

By Keir Liddle

Sense About Science are launching an interesting campaign tomorrow outside the Dept. of Health in London, relating to the scheme whereby practitioners of alternative medicine can become professionally registered despite a complete and total lack of any medical training. The proposed regulations will regulate practitioners of acupunture, herbal medicine, traditional Chinese medicine and other traditional medicine systems – regardless of the efficacy or lack thereof of these systems of “medicine”.

Quite rightly, Sense About Science point out that the scheme, by virtue of practitioners receiving an official government rubber stamp, could mislead the public into thinking that alternative medicines are somehow bona fide, and that practitioners of these methods are qualified to give out medical advice.

To this end, an audacious and clever  “PR stunt” will be taking place tomorrow at 11.30 at the Department Of Health at Whitehall, where those who pop along will be able to receive a diploma in Old Wives’ Traditional Medicine.

The proposed scheme is definitely something that we at the Twenty-First Floor encourage people to support and put their weight behind – with one important caveat.

This is one of the few pro-science campaigns which has the potential to have a UK-wide impact.

Many campaigns seem to forget that Scotland has a separate health, legal and (to an extent) political system to the rest of the UK and thus, lobbying Westminster can often be little more than an interesting exercise in exploring the West Lothian question. Take the 10:23 campaign as an example. It was highly successful in Edinburgh and Glasgow, but the focus of the campaign was Westminster – a parliament that has no power over the funding of homoeopathy in the UK. The Twenty-First Floor did try to redress the balance by running a brief campaign (which, in fairness, is still going on here) to lobby Holyrood; however, we unfortunately lack the manpower and branding with which to truly push the campaign into the limelight in Scotland.

Now, I don’t imagine for a second that there are that many people who supported the 10:23 campaign in Scotland who wouldn’t have been aware of the issues surrounding devolution and the health service, but it would have been nice to have this issue built into the campaign. This would have avoided canvassed MSPs simply stating that they were free to ignore the recommendations of the Westminster Science and Technology committee, and not addressing the issues which were highlighted by the campaign.

Our MSPs need to know that science doesn’t stop just North of the Cheviots and the river Tweed.

In fairness, organisations such as CaSE do run campaigns in Scotland and we hope to help Skeptical Voter tackle the upcoming Scottish parliamentary election. I in no way want to deride the efforts of groups around the country to promote science and battle pseudo-science. However, I feel we need a little more coordination and a little more localised pressure. I’d like to invite any readers involved in science communication to get involved in the discussion about the SaNE (Scottish and Northen England) network idea, which aims to achieve some of these goals (and a few more ambitious ones) by allowing easier communication and coordination between groups. (There is a temporary forum up here and the #sane hashtag on Twitter – please do send us your thoughts).

The SaNE  Network (as christened by Daniella Rudloff many moons ago) is basically an idea to get different skeptics and science communication groups talking, and allowing for easier coordination of skeptical activism and science communication endeavours. There is no limit to what we could do with it: we could share the expertise of geographically disparate science communicators and skeptics on media communication, event organisation and a whole host of topics. We could perhaps organise conferences where the focus is on developing skills in these areas where, by coming together, we could achieve more than we do separately.

By running “national” campaigns without consideration for the devolution settlement, we (I include us Scots-based skeptics in this, and pledge to do better) run the risk of giving Scottish politicians a free pass to support woo and ignore the sterling work of campaigners up and down the whole UK.