• Amendment plan to kick minimum pricing out of Bill
  • Parliament debate set for next week
  • Drinks industry confident on legal advice

Opposition parties are preparing to torpedo the Scottish Government's last-ditch attempt to impose a minimum price on alcoholic drinks when the proposal comes up for debate next week.

A source close to the situation told just-drinks today (2 September) that the Scottish Conservative party is preparing to table an amendment to the Government's Alcohol Bill. The amendment would be to remove the clause for a base price on drinks of GBP0.45 (US$0.69) per unit of alcohol, as proposed by the ruling Scottish National Party today.

The move means that the SNP's last-gasp attempt to push through minimum pricing could be short-lived.

It is highly likely that the largest opposition party, Labour, would back the Conservative push to drop minimum pricing from the Alcohol Bill. Labour came out against the policy earlier this week.

Drinks industry leaders strongly rejected the SNP's move to add minimum pricing to its Alcohol Bill, which contains a range of measures designed to reduce alcohol-related harm in Scotland.

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association said: "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."

The Scotch Whisky Association, meanwhile, said that the policy would almost certainly breach European Union law. "The Scottish Government’s scheme fails to meet the basic tests of EU law and will do little to address alcohol misuse," said the organisation's chief executive, Gavin Hewitt.

The UK Coalition Government in Westminster does not favour minimum pricing on drinks in England and Wales, while the Office of Fair Trading in both Scotland and England has also voiced strong opposition.

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.