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SNP conference: Alcohol pricing bill back to Holyrood

21 October 11 17:56
Nicola Sturgeon

A new bill on minimum pricing for alcohol will be introduced at Holyrood within the next month, the SNP's Nicola Sturgeon has promised.

She delivered the message in a speech to the party faithful attending their annual conference in Inverness.

A first attempt by the SNP to push through a similar alcohol bill failed during the last parliament.

Scotland's health secretary also said "we will win" the independence referendum.

The 1,300 gathering heard Ms Sturgeon say: "Delegates, I can tell you today that our minimum pricing bill will be reintroduced to parliament within the next month.

"When that bill is passed, Scotland will become the first country to introduce a minimum price per unit of alcohol. The world is watching us.

"Being first with a policy means that it comes with no absolute certainties.

"I know that. But I also know that the evidence, the real life experiences of doctors, nurses, the police, and sheer common sense tell us it can work to reduce the dreadful damage that alcohol misuse does to our communities.

"So, it may not be the politically easy thing to do, but I believe in my heart that it is the right thing to do."

During her speech, Ms Sturgeon said that she would introduce a two-week maximum wait for hospital discharge by 2015.

The current target for discharging someone from hospital when they no longer need hospital care is six weeks.

But under the new targets there would be a four-week maximum wait for discharge, to be achieved by April 2013, followed by a two-week maximum wait by April 2015.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Ten years ago over 2,000 patients were delayed in leaving hospital by more than six weeks.

"By July 2011 that figure was less than 100. But the reality is that too many patients, many of them older people, are still waiting too long to be discharged.

"We must take action to cut these unnecessary waits, which are bad for patients and a waste of hospital resources, particularly when beds need to be available for those who need them."

Ms Sturgeon told part members that hospital bed-blocking costs the NHS more than 200,000 bed days each year - enough patients to fill a 600-bed hospital, at a cost of up to £60m a year.

She also announced plans for 25% of all type 1 diabetic sufferers, under the age of 18, to have access to insulin pumps.

The politician informed the conference that such devices made a real difference to the ability of diabetics to manage their condition and prevent complications.

Ms Sturgeon added: "They don't work for everyone but clinical guidelines say that far more people in Scotland should have access to them than is currently the case. Right now, only about 2.5% of patients have them."

The health secretary also plans to triple the total number of pumps available to sufferers of all ages to more than 2,000.

On the issue of independence and the planned referendum, Ms Sturgeon said the SNP was winning the argument.

However, she cautioned that the party could take nothing for granted.

'Right decisions'

Ms Sturgeon said: "The decision on Scotland's future rests with the Scottish people. Our responsibility is to persuade them that independence offers a better future for our country."

She added: "We know that the campaign against independence will be relentlessly negative. For the UK parties, the independence debate is not about the best interests of Scotland.

"Our case for independence will be based on the simple but powerful belief that, as a country, we are better placed than anyone else to take the right decisions for our future."

To rousing cheers, Ms Sturgeon said: "Delegates, I believe that we will win the independence referendum."

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