Comment - Minimum pricing down but not out
The UK drinks industry will have to take a hit on pricing sooner or later, despite this week's reprieve in Scotland.
Anyone who saw the debate on minimum alcohol pricing on the BBC's weekly Question Time programme last night will have noted widespread applause in the audience for those speaking in favour of minimum pricing on drinks.
Prominent doctors, health campaigners, politicians and, it seems, a growing proportion of the public, favour pricing action to tackle excess consumption.
Opposition parties in the Scottish Parliament have blocked the ruling National Party's (SNP) plan to set a base price per unit of alcohol.
But that is not the end of it. The SNP has vowed to revisit the idea and just-drinks understands that the UK Government, despite having publicly rejected minimum pricing, remains interested.
One former senior civil servant, still closely involved in the pricing issue, told just-drinks that threats of legal action from the industry could prove to be a red herring. Civil servants, he said, are there to find ways of making policy work and are very good at it.
Already, we have seen signs of a compromise solution from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), which has vehemntly opposed minimum pricing.
It said last week: "We believe a floor price mechanism to tackle loss-leading could be introduced in the form of a ban on alcohol sales below tax."
The industry may avoid a blanket base price on alcohol units, but some kind of hit on pricing still looks likely.
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