SNP’s proposals ‘untested’

16 April, 2010

The Scottish Labour Party is setting up a commission to look into alternatives to minimum pricing to tackle alcohol misuse.

The move came after the ruling SNP published its Alcohol Bill which confirms its desire to bring in minimum pricing at a preferred level of 40p per unit of alcohol.

Shadow Health Secretary Jackie Baillie said minimum pricing was “untried, untested and possibly incompetent”.

She added that the SNP was “promoting a scheme that will increase the profits of the supermarkets, but won’t provide a single penny for more police officers or alcohol treatment”.

But Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon insisted that the main points of the Alcohol Bill represented a “once in a generation chance to turn around Scotland’s drink problems”.

She added: “No one can seriously argue that selling strong drink for pocket-money prices isn’t fuelling heavy consumption.

“While we have never said minimum pricing is a silver bullet, all the expert opinion agrees that it can have a major impact as part of a wider package of measures.”?The Scotch Whisky Association rejected minimum pricing but proposed a mechanism to prevent sales at below invoice or tax prices.

Chief executive Gavin Hewitt said: “The evidence of research on minimum pricing is that the heaviest drinkers are less likely to adjust their drinking than moderate consumers.”?The strength of opposition to minimum pricing poses a serious threat to the measure making it on to the statute books, but other parts of the bill are expected to face less opposition. These include:

A ban on irresponsible off-sales promotions which encourage excessive drinking

A duty on licensing boards to consider raising the off-sales purchase age to 21 if local conditions highlight a need

A power for boards to introduce a social responsibility fee from some retailers to offset the costs of dealing with drink problems.

The Association of Convenience Stores said a ban on some promotions would undermine local stores’ ability to compete with supermarkets. “We are working closely with the Scottish Grocers’ Federation to oppose these restrictions,” said chief executive James Lowman.

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