Call for all-party meeting on minimum pricing

Man drinking
Image caption The letter said the plan does not have majority support in Holyrood

Opposition leaders have launched an attempt to find alternatives to the SNP's flagship minimum unit price plan for alcohol.

The parties have signed a letter to Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, calling on her to "focus on the common ground", two weeks after MSPs voted against the policy in principle.

Ministers intend to push ahead with the plan because the vote was non-binding.

Ms Sturgeon said she would offer to meet opposition leaders.

Labour, the Tories, Liberal Democrats and Greens all signed the letter calling for a fresh approach.

The parties outlined the "huge challenge" posed by Scotland's harmful relationship with alcohol.

The letter said: "It is clear that after the recent vote in the Scottish Parliament there is no majority for minimum unit pricing, but there is a responsibility on all of us to work together to find an alternative that is evidence-based, credible and legally competent.

"As a starting point, we also accept that raising the price of alcohol has a part to play in reducing consumption and therefore harm.

"We therefore propose an all-party meeting, which should be a first opportunity to put party politics to one side, and focus on the common ground between us."

The parties said they accepted the Scottish government would continue to make the case for minimum unit pricing, but added: "This should not preclude the search for an alternative policy that is capable of commanding broader support across the chamber."

Options for raising the price could include increases to duty, proposed by the UK government and supported by the Scottish Tories.

On 10 June, Labour joined forces with the Tories who put forward a parliamentary motion calling for the minimum price plan to be struck from the bill.

It was backed 54-49 by MSPs, with the Liberal Democrats abstaining.

'Wide consensus'

Ms Sturgeon said she had already convened an all-party summit which had helped shape policy.

She added: "I welcome the fact that opposition parties now accept the link between price and consumption.

"I hope they will also accept the wide consensus amongst health professionals, the police and key parts of the industry that minimum pricing is the most targeted way of addressing price and reducing consumption and harm.

"I would be happy to have further discussions with the opposition parties about this issue and would invite them to submit their suggestions for consideration."

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