Richard Lyle is the Scottish National Party (SNP) Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for Uddingston and Bellshill, which is in the Central Scottish region of Lanarkshire.
In August 2017, he was a member of several Cross-Party Groups in the Scottish Parliament, including the Group on Health Inequalities and the Group on Independent Convenience Stores. The Scottish Grocers' Federation, which has received membership funds from tobacco companies, provides the Secretariat to the Group on Independent Convenience Stores.
Lyle served on the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee until 30 March 2017.
Relationship with the Tobacco Industry
Accepted Tobacco Industry Hospitality
On 20 July 2017, Lyle tweeted that he and his Parliamentary Researcher were on “a fact finding tour of Switzerland beside Lake Neuchatel”. Lyle omitted, which was later revealed by The Herald newspaper, that the MSP was visiting Philip Morris International (PMI), the tobacco company that repeatedly threatened the Scottish Government over its plans to introduce tobacco plain packaging, and that in May 2015 started a lawsuit against the UK Government, which it lost in May 2016.
- For more information on the tobacco industry's legal threats and challenges against plain packaging legislation, go to Scotland Plain Packaging: Legal Threats and Plain Packaging in the UK: Tobacco Company Opposition.
Lyle did declare the overnight trip in his Parliamentary Register of Interest, which stated that the MSP had participated in meetings with senior PMI researchers and developers, had been given a tour of the research facility called ‘the Cube’, and was treated to a dinner. The total cost of the trip, valued at £815.84, had been “met in its entirety by Philip Morris Industries” (Image 1).
Lyle’s reasons for accepting hospitality from PMI have been criticised by health groups. A self-confessed smoker since the age of 12, Lyle claimed that his visit was “not to defend PMI….It was because I wanted change. I went because my family wanted me to give up smoking. I did not discuss it with the party whips or party leadership”. Lyle added that he would use his experience of visiting PMI to encourage smokers to move from tobacco to vaping, a well-documented harm reduction approach supported by several public health organisations in the UK.
Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of health charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland, countered that taking guidance on health matters from tobacco companies is entirely at odds with the Scottish Government’s vision of a tobacco-free Scotland. She said: “As a previous member of the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, Richard Lyle should know better than to go to a tobacco company for help and advice on stopping smoking … “What he should never do is accept hospitality from the commercial interests behind the problem, who have a long history of directly opposing Scottish Government measures to reduce smoking.”
Proposed Cross Party Group on Tobacco Harm Reduction
In 2018, Lyle was asked to convene a Parliamentary Cross-Party Group (CPG) on harm reduction and e-cigarettes. The CPG was pushed by PMI and the Scottish Grocers' Federation. The proposed CPG was eventually dropped due to reported reluctance of public health organisations to take part in the CPG. For more information go to Attempts to Set Up Parliamentary Group on Tobacco Harm Reduction.
Lyle’s Support for Tobacco Legislation in Scotland
Lyle’s trip to PMI’s factory seems to be at odds with his strong track record of supporting tobacco legislation in Scotland, with his concerns mainly focused on young people’s access to tobacco and other nicotine products.
In February 2017, Lyle supported the introduction of the Sale of Tobacco (Registration of Moveable Structures and Fixed Penalty Notices) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2017, which introduced mandatory registration of small pop up shops and vans selling vapour products like e-cigarettes.
In October 2015, Lyle strongly supported the bill that made it an offence to smoke in a car in the presence of children under the age of 18:
- “I am a smoker, but I am also a supporter of the bill. I used to smoke in my car when my children were young, but I abhor the thought of doing so now. I see the damaging impact that it can have on our children, and I now know why my children do not smoke. As a grandfather, my habits have definitely changed and I never think of smoking when my grandson or granddaughter is in the car. My grandson, who is aged three, now says to me, “Stop smoking. Stop smoking.” For me it comes down to their rights and my rights. I have the right to smoke, but my grandchildren—indeed all children throughout this country—have the right to fresh air, and I do not have the right to impinge on that.”
Earlier that year, in April, Lyle supported a motion, presented by John Mason MSP, which cited research that called e-cigarettes the ‘alcopops of the nicotine world’, warning against them acting as a gateway to cigarette smoking for your people, and urging for action to ‘avoid creating a new generation of smokers being developed’. A few months later, in September 2015, Lyle publicly condemned e-cigarette advertising on TV, raising the concern in Parliament that children and teenagers would be exposed to this advertising and take up a nicotine addiction.
- “Many years ago, we stopped advertising tobacco on television. I was shocked when I saw an advert for a vaping product on television one night. If there are more than 500 products and – with the greatest respect to the people selling them – they are backed by tobacco companies in some way, why do we allow television advertising for the products when we have done away with tobacco advertising on television?”
In December 2015 Lyle voted for the introduction of the Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc and Care) Scotland Bill which introduced sales restrictions to e-cigarettes, in particular to put provisions in place to prevent young people from being exposed to e-cigarette use.
- Tobacco Industry Hospitality for UK Politicians
- Scotland Plain Packaging: Legal Threats
- Harm Reduction
- Scottish Grocers' Federation
- Halogen Communications
Profile of Richard Lyle on the Scottish Parliament website.
- The Scottish Parliament, Richard Lyle MSP Biography Page, undated, accessed August 2017
- The Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee, Annual Report 2016-17, SP Paper 155, 8th Report, Session 5, 24 May 2017, accessed August 2017
- R. Lyle (@RichardlyleSnp). “Eddie and I on our fact finding tour of Switzerland beside Lake Neuchatel”. 20 July 2017, 4:32PM. Tweet
- A. Whitaker, ‘I let Big Tobacco pay for my jaunt to Switzerland because I want to quit smoking’, says MSP, The Herald, 20 August 2017, accessed August 2017
- R. Armour, SNP MSP criticised for taking hospitality from ciggie giant, Third Force News, 21 August 2017, accessed August 2017
- R. Lyle, Register of Interests Richard Lyle: Overseas Visits, The Scottish Parliament website, 1 August 2017, accessed August 2017
- J. Lee. Letter to Richard Lyle MSP, subject: Smoking Harm Reduction. 30 April 2018
- The Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee, Official Report Tuesday 21 February 2017 Session 5, The Scottish Parliament website, 21 February 2017, accessed August 2017
- The Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee, Official Report Meeting of Parliament Thursday 8 October 2015, The Scottish Parliament website, 8 October 2015, accessed August 2017
- The Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee, Business Bulletin Archive Wednesday 1 April 2015 Section F: Motions and Amendments, The Scottish Parliament website, 1 April 2015, accessed August 2017
- The Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee, Official Report Tuesday 8 September 2015 Session 4, The Scottish Parliament website, 8 September 2015, accessed August 2017
- The Scottish Parliament website, Official Report Meeting of the Parliament Tuesday 1 December 2015 Session 4, The Scottish Parliament website, 1 December 2015, accessed August 2017