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UK: Scotland proposes minimum pricing, to drinks industry ire

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Scotland's Government has launched a new Alcohol Bill that seeks to impose a minimum price on alcohol in the country, to the continuing chagrin of many in the drinks industry.

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The ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) has made good on its promise to reintroduce proposals for a minimum unit price on alcoholic drinks. The new bill, however, does not yet detail what the floor price would be.

Last year, the SNP's minority administration failed to win Parliamentary support for a price of GBP0.45 (US$0.72) per alcohol unit in Scotland. While part of the UK, the country has the power to implement its own legislation on the issue. However, after securing a majority in the Scottish Parliament following elections this year, the SNP is confident of passing a new bill on pricing.

Drinks industry trade bodies believe that, if enacted, the bill will face legal challenges. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said today (1 November) that minimum pricing is "illegal and ineffective". SWA CEO Gavin Hewitt said: “The Scottish Government’s fixation with minimum pricing as the solution to alcohol-related harm is misguided."

The CEO of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, Jeremy Beadles, said that the plan will punish responsible drinkers and that there is no evidence that minimum pricing can reduce alcohol misuse. "The Scottish Parliament should insist on its right to review the policy and its impact on cross-border shopping, internet sales of alcohol and any evidence of illegal trade of alcohol in Scotland," he added.

The SNP's stance could lead to clashes with the UK Government in London. Last week, UK public health minister Anne Milton said of minimum pricing: "Our advice is that that, in itself, is probably illegal as it contravenes European free trade legislation."


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