Sunset clause for minimum unit pricing in Scotland

04 May, 2012

MSPs have agreed a sunset clause in proposed minimum pricing legislation which will see the measure automatically expire after six years unless a specific order is made by ministers for it to continue.

Opponents of the legislation hope the move will bring greater scrutiny of the minimum unit pricing of alcohol if, as expected, it becomes law later this year.

The amendment to the legislation was agreed in a meeting of the Scottish parliament’s health committee this week as part of a deal made by the ruling SNP with Conservatives to drop their opposition to the bill as a whole.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “The sunset clause is a response to concerns from some members that minimum pricing hasn’t been tried elsewhere.

“I think that is a perfectly reasonable and legitimate position to take.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “We remain sceptical about minimum pricing but by securing this exit clause it means the project can be properly rolled out and evaluated at a later stage.

“If it is found to be not working, that means we can drop it without being stuck with measures that are unpopular and unworkable.”

The move was welcomed by the Scottish Grocers’ Federation, which opposes minimum pricing in principle.

Chief executive John Drummond said: “SGF lobbied for the inclusion of a sunset clause so that the policy would be rigorously evaluated and terminated if proven to be unsuccessful.

“All of the parties must now get round the table to ensure that the evaluation of minimum pricing is as robust and thorough as it can be.”

A Labour amendment to claw back into government coffers any extra profits made by retailers as a result of minimum pricing was rejected.

Drummond at the SGF said: “We are pleased that the poorly-considered amendment designed to raid the pockets of retailers was firmly rejected by the health committee.”

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