SNP manifesto pledges public inquiry into gambling harms

27 November 2019

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has used its General Election manifesto to call on the UK government to treat problem gambling as a public health matter, and also urged for the introduction of new laws to help protect children online.

In its manifesto for the 12 December General Election, the SNP, led by Nicola Sturgeon (pictured), said that the UK government should tackle problem gambling with a joined-up strategy.

The party said it would press for greater devolution of gambling regulation to the Scottish Parliament and back a full public health inquiry into gambling-related harm.

The manifesto also sets out the SNP’s support for changes to charity lottery law in order to reduce bureaucracy and maximise returns to good causes, as well as a pledge to push the UK government to prevent minors accessing gambling-style mechanics, such as loot boxes, in video games.

Meanwhile, the SNP called for new standards and measures be put in place so social media, gaming and technology organisations fully protect their users, saying the UK is “behind the times” in terms of protecting children online.

New measures would include having a statutory duty of care and mandatory obligations to tackle unsuitable content that can lead to self-harm and suicide, sexual exploitation, grooming, abuse and extremism.

The manifesto sets out plans to appoint a new independent online regulator, with the ability to take action against those that breach regulations, including imposing heavy fines and blocking access to sites. There was also a proposal for the introduction of age verification on sites that are not suitable for children or have lower age limits.

The SNP also said that the government should provide free and up-to-date expert resources to help protect people and support learning about online harm and abusive behaviour, as well as how to report it. This would include providing information for parents to help keep their children safe.

To help fund these new measures, the SNP said it would introduce a levy on technology companies. In addition, the SNP would run awareness campaigns to highlight resources available to consumers.

The party also used the manifesto to set out how the SNP’s a role in cross-party efforts to reduce the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals to £2, as well as its efforts in halting a proposal to delay this from spring to autumn 2019.

Last week, Labour also pledged in its manifesto to treat problem gambling as a public health issue should it win the General Election, adding that it would put in place a new gambling act "fit for the digital age".

The Conservative Party also said it would conduct a review of the 2005 Gambling Act should voters elect it into government, while the Liberal Democrats also made a similar pledge in its manifesto.

Image: Kenneth Halley