Renewed plans to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol in Scotland were today attacked as misguided and probably illegal by the drinks trade.
Pledging action on Scotland’s ‘battle with alcohol misuse’, Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon (pictured) promised legislation before next summer, but did not fix a unit price.
Previous plans tabled by the Scottish National Party involving a 45p per unit minimum price, were voted down by the Scottish Parliament – but the SNP won a majority in the May elections, paving the way for renewed legislation.
Wine and Spirit Trade Association chief executive Jeremy Beadles said there was ‘no evidence’ that minimum pricing would address the problem of alcohol misuse, pointing out that government figures showed a fall in alcohol consumption in Scotland last year.
‘As millions of families face the toughest economic conditions for a generation, the Scottish Government is determined to press ahead with legislation that will punish the vast majority of responsible consumers with higher prices,’ he added.
Meanwhile, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) pointed out that Scottish Government-commissioned research showed minimum pricing having no impact on the proportion of heavy drinkers.
The policy was probably illegal because it violated EU and international trade rules, and could encourage copycat moves by other countries, endangering lucrative Scotch whisky exports, the SWA also warned.
‘The Scottish Government’s fixation with minimum pricing as the solution to alcohol-related harm is misguided,’ said Gavin Hewitt, SWA chief executive.
However, Sturgeon said alcohol was one of the most pressing public health challenges facing Scotland, estimating that alcohol-related problems are costing the country £3.56bn a year.
Written by Richard Woodard