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UK: Labour, SNP eye compromise on alcohol plans

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A deal to tackle alcohol abuse in Scotland could be struck between the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) and Labour, the main opposition, but talks hinge on a proposal to introduce minimum pricing.

A debate in Scotland's Parliament yesterday (26 March) saw Labour's shadow health minister Cathy Jamieson offer to "build consensus" with the SNP on plans to combat alcohol-related harm.

The SNP said earlier this week that it would put its alcohol plans, including minimum pricing, into a new Health Bill set to go before the Parliament later this year.

As a minority government, support from opposition parties will be essential for the SNP to push through its proposals, which also include a clampdown on special offers in the off-trade and handing local authorities the power to raise the legal age for buying alcohol in shops from 18 to 21.

Support from Labour, as the second largest party, could be crucial.

Any deal is likely to hang on SNP plans to set a minimum price per unit of alcohol. But, Labour Government ministers in London, including prime minister Gordon Brown, have publicly distanced themselves from such a policy.

One drinks industry source familiar with the situation told just-drinks that the parties remain "a long way from consensus" on minimum pricing.

Legal advice sought by several drinks companies strongly indicates that minimum pricing along SNP lines would breach EU competition law.


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