Greene King brewery boss backs minimum alcohol pricing

Man drinking The Scottish government is committed to bringing back a minimum pricing bill

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Plans to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol would "go to the very heart" of Scotland's drink problems, a brewery boss has claimed.

Greene King chief executive Rooney Anand has backed the SNP proposals, as has an academic from Canada, where an alcohol unit price limit is enforced.

The Scottish government is committed to bringing back an Alcohol Minimum Pricing Bill within the next month.

But other industry groups highlighted a fall in deaths linked to alcohol.

Greene King runs more than 2,000 pubs, restaurants and hotels in the UK.

Mr Anand said: "We have consistently argued that the solution must be proportionate to the problem and should not penalise the majority of responsible drinkers.

"That is why we believe a minimum price for alcohol would go to the very heart of the problem."

Hazardous use

Prof Tim Stockwell, director of the Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia, said there was clear evidence that minimum pricing in Canada had significantly reduced alcohol consumption.

He said: "There is overwhelming evidence that cheap alcohol is linked to high levels of hazardous use and related harms.

Start Quote

Our advice is that it is illegal”

End Quote Anne Milton UK Public Health Minister

"The Scottish Parliament should be applauded if they approve the bill to introduce a minimum price on alcoholic drinks."

Minimum unit pricing failed to win over the opposition when the legislation was introduced by the minority SNP administration last year, before the party won a majority at Holyrood.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said support in favour of minimum pricing was "overwhelming", particularly among health professionals.

But she said the government would revisit the recommended minimum unit price of 45p devised for the first attempt at legislation.

Ms Sturgeon told the Politics Show: "We need to make sure we're taking account of all of the available evidence and that evidence is up to date.

"For example, one of the things we'll do before getting to that point of decision is rerun the Sheffield University model, because that would give us the most up-to-date evidence on which we could then base that decision."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "Having support from the business community will help ensure the new laws are implemented effectively."

Legislation has been brought in to stop retailers selling drinks promotions, but it has been criticised for having too many loopholes, through simple price cutting and online sales delivered from outside Scotland.

Deaths trend

There are also warnings that moves to a minimum unit price could be blocked.

UK Public Health Minister Anne Milton told a Westminster committee earlier this week that minimum pricing legislation was likely to contravene European free trade legislation.

She said: "I know Scotland is thinking about introducing it, and they will be challenged, and that will clarify the law. But our advice is that it is illegal."

A spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association said: "Alcohol-related deaths in Scotland in 2010 show a fall of 15% since the peak in 2006 and were at the second lowest level in the last decade.

"It is disappointing the Scottish government continues to ignore the improving trend of less hospital admissions and less alcohol-related deaths."

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