GLASGOW health chiefs could still “go it alone” and introduce fluoride to drinking water.
As reported in later editions of last night’s Evening Times, First Minister Jack McConnell has ruled out adding fluoride to mains water supplies across Scotland.
But bosses at NHS Greater Glasgow are still determined to add the chemical to improve the city’s poor dental health record.
And today it emerged existing laws could allow them to fluoridate water, regardless of oppo-sition from the public, local councils and even the water commissioner.
Mr McConnell’s announcement followed a question from Green MSP Patrick Harvie.
He said: “The First Minister has made it clear he will not change the legislation during this parliament, but that means the issue will come up again in a few years.
“It is time for the health board to realise there is no support from above and no support from the people it serves and to say ‘let’s not do it’.
“I am calling on the Executive and health board to make a clear statement saying ‘no, never’ to fluoride in drinking water.”
Under the Water (Fluoridation) Act 1985 local health boards simply have to notify the public, local councillors and the water commissioner before considering their views and applying to Scottish Water for permission to add the chemical.
It is then for the water authority to decide whether the process goes ahead.
An Executive spokesman confirmed the arrangement and added: “Scottish Water has discretion to accept or reject the proposal.”
He added: “As a result, it is not a decision for ministers to make.
But Scottish Water insisted it would approach ministers for a decision after assessing the technical and cost issues of any proposal.
A spokesman said: “As a public body it is likely we would look to the Scottish Executive for guidance in the event a decision is required.”
The Executive spokesman said oral health remained a “key issue” and said other proposals to improve the state of children’s and adults’ teeth would be considered soon.”
Fluoridation is at the centre of NHS Greater Glasgow’s Oral Health Strategy, which will be decided on next month.
The board refused to consult on the specific issue of fluoride, despite calls from its own members to do so.
The move was put forward in August by planning director Catriona Renfrew who argued: “Water fluoridation is the single most effective measure to counter dental decay.”
Dr Frank Angell, chairman of the area dental partnership said: “The sooner we get a debate on it, the better.”
The health board wouldn’t say whether it would try to “go it alone”, but a board spokeswoman said: “The scientific arguments for fluoride are very powerful indeed.
“There are, however, ethical and moral issues about additives to drinking water and, clearly, the views of the public must be heard.”