UK: Minimum pricing added to Scotland's Alcohol Bill
- SNP plans GBP0.45 base price per unit
- Majority of Parliament opposed
- Diageo tells SNP to "move on"
SNP stares down opposition and strives on with minimum pricing
The Scottish Government has launched a last-ditch push to secure a minimum price on alcoholic drinks in the country, despite being outnumbered in the country's Parliament.
All drinks sold in Scotland would carry a minimum price of GBP0.45 (US$0.69) per alcohol unit under the ruling Scottish National Party's (SNP) plan, announced today (2 September). The SNP has added the measure to its Alcohol Bill, which is set to be debated in the Scottish Parliament and includes several measures to combat excess drinking.
However, observers have said that the SNP is drinking in the last-chance saloon on minimum pricing. The minority Government lacks the political support to push the measure through Parliament after the main opposition party, Labour, rejected the policy earlier this week.
Several drinks industry leaders reacted strongly against the SNP's minimum pricing proposal. "Minimum pricing is wrong in principle," said Diageo today. "By its very nature, it will impact all consumers, the majority of whom enjoy alcohol responsibly without harm to themselves or others. Our view remains that targeted interventions would be much more effective and appropriate.”
The Wine & Spirit Trade Association added: "It's time the Scottish Government stopped pursuing an approach already rejected by Parliament and started working with other politicians and stakeholders on a range of policies to address the root causes of alcohol misuse."
Should the SNP succeed in its minimum pricing drive, it would likely face legal challenges. The Scotch Whisky Association has long argued that the policy would breach European Union law.
Scottish health minister Nichola Sturgeon appealed to the country's Parliament to consider the SNP's proposal. "Our proposals have already won backing from respected health professionals at home and abroad and I hope, for the sake of our nation's health, they will also win the backing of the Scottish Parliament."
The SNP said that a GBP0.45 minimum price per unit would reduce healthcare costs by GBP83m over ten years. Other SNP proposals contained in the Alcohol Bill include a ban on promotions and a "social responsibility" levy on industry.
The UK Coalition Government in Westminster does not favour minimum pricing on drinks, while the Office of Fair Trading has also voiced its opposition.
To read just-drinks' comments on the industry's response to the alcohol debate in the UK, click here.
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