Minimum pricing makes comeback

THe Scottish Government has published its Bill to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol, with Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon saying it was time for Parliament to “join forces with those across Scotland who are serious about tackling our battle with alcohol misuse.”

Attempts to introduce a minimum price failed in the last parliament, as the SNP minority government was unable to secure a consensus across the parliamentary chamber. However, following the party’s decisive victory in May where it secured an overall majority at Holyrood, the legislation now seems certain to go ahead.

The Bill looks to set a minimum price for a unit of alcohol as a condition of licence. A specific minimum price per unit of alcohol will be announced during the Bill process.

“Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol is one of the most pressing public health challenges facing us as a nation and we need to take action to tackle it”, said Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon. “We have introduced a ban on quantity discounts and promotions in off-sales have been restricted, but already we have seen that without minimum pricing these attempts to take action on Scotland’s alcohol problem are being undermined. “By setting a minimum price for a unit of alcohol, we can raise the price of the cheap supermarket white ciders, lager and value spirits sought out by problem drinkers.

“I hope that this time around MSPs will do the right thing and back this policy that has the support of doctors, nurses, the police and growing numbers of the general population. I will not shirk from leading the way in addressing this challenge. It is time for Scotland to win its battle with the booze.”

Although the measure is likely to be opposed once again by Labour and the Conservatives, Liberal Democrat Health spokesman Alison McInnes has given a a pledge that her party will seek to work with the Scottish Government on the issue. Describing alcohol as a “blight” on our society, she said “I wish to work constructively with Ministers to make forthcoming minimum pricing legislation the most effective it can be.”