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Labour back out of plans to set minimum price of alcohol in Scotland


Friday, November 27th, 2009 Labour back out of plans to set minimum price of alcohol in Scotland

Members of Scottish Parliament have blocked minimum pricing for drink in Scotland.

The Labour Party will now conform with the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives to block plans for the Scottish government to introduce a new law that would curb the sale of cheap lager and cider in supermarkets.

The SNP planned to introduce a minimum pricing of 40p per 100millilitres of alcohol, on alcohol north of the border in an attempt to tackle alcohol misuse. There were also proposals to raise the age for buying alcohol from 18 to 21, forbid cheap drink promotions and enforce a “social responsibility fee” for retailers who sell alcohol.

The British Medical Association has said it was “confounded” by the Labour party’s rejection of the minimum pricing proposal.

Alcohol Focus Scotland said that the Labour part’s move was “a major blow which could set back attempts to make a positive change to Scotland’s drinking culture”.

Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police, Stephen House, said that setting a minimum price on alcohol could play a major part in driving down crime and violence in Scotland.

Mr House said: “Pricing does have an impact on consumption. The past few years have seen more and more people buy their alcohol from supermarkets and off licences. The reason for this is quite clear — it is cheaper.

“My officers see the devastation caused by cheap, strong alcohol each and every day. They see people left shattered by violence, towns and cities blighted by fear and young people making foolish, drink-fuelled choices that will change their lives forever. Our jails, prisons and hospital wards are testament to this and it is time for it to change.”

The introduction of this new law was intended to tackle crime, violence and save lives. It was also hope that is would reduce the £2.25 billion a year in financial damage done to the Scottish economy.

Both the police and health professionals have back the new proposals.

Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland, said:

“The measures outlined in this Bill offer a way out of this national epidemic. Almost half of all deaths in Scotland could be prevented by lower alcohol consumption.” The initiative, however, was met with a wave of hostility from the drinks industry, including the Scotch Whisky Association, and the retail sector, which raised concerns about its legality under European competition law and warned that minimum pricing would hit responsible drinkers.

Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, said that the opposition parties had ignored all of the advice offered by reputable bodies including, the BMA, the Royal Colleges of Nursing, Physicians, Surgeons and GPs, Faculty of Public Health, British Liver Trust, all four of the UK Chief Medical Officers, Licensed Trade Association and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland.

In response to this, Scottish Labour leader, Iain Gray, defended the decision of his party and said that by setting a minimum price on alcohol would only serve to make supermarkets richer, potentially breaking the EU law on fair competition and does not tackle the underlying issues that affect people who are dependant on alcohol. He is now planning to set up a commission to look at alternative pricing mechanisms such as a local sales tax.


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