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Reaction to minimum drink price Bill

01 November 11 15:42
Alcohol on shop shelves

The Scottish government has reintroduced a bill aiming to bring in a minimum price for a unit of alcohol.

The SNP administration has said it will not be a "magic bullet" but it will go some way to finding the solution for combating Scotland's booze culture.

Here are views on the policy from a range of organisations.

Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA)

The chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, Jeremy Beadles, said: "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.

"Yet there is no evidence minimum pricing will address the problem of alcohol misuse and the most recent government figures show alcohol consumption per capita fell in Scotland last year.

"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."

Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA)

Patrick Browne, chief executive of the SBPA, said: "Without commenting on the principles of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) of alcohol, I think there will be concern in the trade that the Scottish government seem to have abandoned the sunset clause which they had proposed to have apply to MUP when they brought forward their legislation last year.

"This would have meant that the parliament would have had to have voted for minimum pricing to have been retained going forward rather than the measure having to be subsequently abolished by new legislation if MUP was proven not to have worked.

"Ironically, the sunset clause provision was the only aspect of minimum pricing to have been passed previously by the Scottish Parliament and the fact that it has been removed is of concern.

"Similarly, the Bill as it stands contains no details about the mechanisms by which MUP would be set, what process would lead to deciding a figure, and what involvement the industry or stakeholders would have in those processes.

"We are worried that leaving those critical details to subsequent regulations mans inevitably they will be subject to less parliamentary scrutiny and safeguards. We will be pressing for those details to be included in the Bill before it is finally voted on by the Scottish Parliament."

Royal College of Nursing (RCN)

Theresa Fyffe, the Scotland director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said: "While some measures such as banning drinks promotions have already been introduced, there is no doubt that the scale of Scotland's problem with alcohol means more action is needed, which is why RCN Scotland supports the Scottish government's plans for minimum pricing.

"Healthcare professionals see evidence of the burden that excessive consumption of alcohol places on the health and wellbeing of Scotland's people every day, whether it be in A&E, wards caring for people with illnesses resulting from excessive alcohol consumption, addictions services or in GP practices and community health centres.

"It is high time that minimum pricing was introduced to help turn the tide in our ongoing campaign against Scotland's drinks problem."

The Co-op

A spokesperson for The Co-operative Group said: "As a socially responsible retailer, committed to selling alcohol responsibly, The Co-operative shares the concerns of the Scottish government about alcohol misuse, but does not believe that minimum pricing would have the desired effect of reducing alcohol consumption and that it would unfairly penalise the vast majority of Scottish consumers who consume alcohol in a responsible way.

"The Co-operative is supportive of a UK-wide policy that not only tackles pricing, but also addresses the cultural problems associated with alcohol abuse. To that end, we are working with the governments in both Scotland and in Westminster, and with other interested parties, to explore the best way forward.

"Crucially, we need a harmonised UK approach to avoid any inconsistency in licensing regimes across the UK. Any inconsistency could potentially undermine the effectiveness of the measures, if, for example, consumers could easily travel to get the goods they want at cheaper prices."

Sainsbury's supermarket

A spokesperson said: "We believe minimum pricing on alcohol would penalise the vast majority of customers who buy alcohol as part of their regular grocery shop and drink responsibly."

Morrisons supermarket

A spokesperson said: "Minimum unit pricing would increase the price of alcohol for all those who drink responsibly as well as the minority who do not.

"Morrisons was the first retailer to call for a ban on the sale of alcohol below the rate of duty plus VAT in 2009 which is an alternative solution to minimum pricing on alcohol.

"This has been accepted by UK government and will become law in April next year in England. This means that if the government thinks price contributes to alcohol misuse it can raise the level of duty, knowing that this increase must be passed onto customers."

Consumer Focus Scotland

Sarah O'Neill, director of policy at Consumer Focus Scotland, said: "The quantity of alcohol consumers buy is influenced by price so, given the tragic consequences which alcohol abuse can have, it is only right that there is a minimum price for a product that causes harm in excessive quantities. And we commend the Scottish government and others for having the courage to say that.

"However, everyone knows pricing by itself will not cure alcohol abuse so it is important that consumers are reassured that this will be part of a bundle of measures, including education, to discourage excessive drinking.

"It is also important that the Scottish government monitors the impact of the minimum price to ensure that it does not disproportionately affect those on lower-incomes."

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