UK: Scotland Gov't waters down minimum pricing plan
- Ruling SNP will consider "workable alternatives"
- Proposes trial of minimum pricing to gain support
- Move marks major shift in policy
SNP rows back on minimum pricing plan
Scotland's Government has stepped back from demanding a minimum price on alcoholic drinks in the face of strong opposition from other political parties.
Health secretary Nichola Sturgeon has conceded that the Government will consider "workable alternatives" to a floor price on drinks.
Her comments, which came at a cross-party alcohol summit yesterday (4 August), mark a significant weakening of the Government's stance. The ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) has insisted for more than a year that it would introduce minimum price per alcohol unit on drinks in order to curb excess drinking.
But, the SNP has failed to garner enough support for the measure in Scotland's Parliament, while the country's official competition regulator has publicly opposed the policy. The Scotch Whisky Association has also warned that minimum pricing would be illegal under European Union law.
Speaking following yesterday's summit, Sturgeon said: "We agreed that action on price was an essential part of tackling Scotland's alcohol misuse problems. The Scottish Government has proposed minimum pricing as the most effective way of doing this.
"However, following today's meeting we will consider any workable alternatives, and as a result have asked the opposition parties to submit further details on what they have proposed today."
In a last-ditch effort to push minimum pricing through, the SNP has proposed a "sunset clause" in its Alcohol Bill that would allow for a trial of minimum pricing over a set period.
"If minimum pricing proved to be successful the measure would be retained, if not parliament could choose to end minimum pricing," said Sturgeon.
Scotland can set its own alcohol pricing policy as part of devolved powers from the UK Parliament in London.
The UK Coalition Government, elected in June, has rejected minimum pricing per alcohol unit in favour of a ban on below-cost sales of drinks.
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