Scotland announced radical plans to restrict smoking in all public places including pubs, restaurants and hotels earlier this week.
As Caterer was going to press, the Scottish Executive was making last-minute adjustments to health proposals expected to include a ban on smoking in all workplaces.
|First Minister Jack McConnell favours an outright ban|
Scottish ministers have been studying feedback from a consultation document covering the views of more than 50,000 Scots. An average of 70% of respondents - including smokers and non-smokers - said they would support a law that would make enclosed public spaces smoke-free.
Only 25% of Scots said they were against the move.
Health minister Andy Kerr presented the executive with a range of options, but it is understood that chief minister Jack McConnell favours an outright ban, following the lead set by Ireland.
The Scottish parliament's authority extends as far as allowing it to impose a ban on smoking under public health laws.
There were no firm details as Caterer went to press, but it is understood that the ban would be imposed by spring 2006 and breaking the law could incur a significant fine, rumoured to be about £3,600.
This has been denied by the executive, which said that all details of enforcement would be worked out after a decision was agreed.
An outright ban would be against the wishes of the Government: health secretary John Reid has put pressure on the executive to hold back from this position.
The Government's long-awaited White Paper on health is expected next week before the parliamentary recess, but current predictions are that an outright ban will not be recommended by the health secretary (see page 12 for more).
British businesses have expressed concern about the prospect of a Scottish ban running alongside different regulations in England and Wales.
JD Wetherspoon, which has 50 pubs north of the border, stressed a level playing field must be established. "We favour a UK-wide ban to allow operators and the public to know where they stand," a spokesman said. "It's not ideal, but a policy for the whole of Scotland is better than cherry-picking cities."