Apology Demanded over Lib-Dem MSP Booze Claim

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MSP Michael Matheson – a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee – has called on the Liberal Democrats’ health spokesperson, Ross Finnie, to apologise for falsely claiming an alcohol addiction specialist had rejected a 45p minimum price for alcohol.

The SNP MSP pointed out that The Courier newspaper has reported that the specialist, Dr Peter Rice of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has in fact given the SNP’s 45p minimum price per unit “a hearty welcome”.


MSP Michael Matheson – a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee – has called on the Liberal Democrats’ health spokesperson, Ross Finnie, to apologise for falsely claiming an alcohol addiction specialist had rejected a 45p minimum price for alcohol.

The SNP MSP pointed out that The Courier newspaper has reported that the specialist, Dr Peter Rice of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has in fact given the SNP’s 45p minimum price per unit “a hearty welcome”.

Earlier this week in the Scottish Parliament Lib Dem MSP Ross Finnie claimed that Dr Rice had rejected the Scottish Government’s proposed 45p minimum price and considered the appropriate level to be 50p.

However in Saturday’s Courier newspaper Dr Rice is reported as giving “a hearty welcome” to the 45p proposal and said it would be “a real pity” if the SNP’s minimum price proposal was not taken forward due to “party political squabbling.”

Dr Rice, a consultant psychiatrist who heads Tayside Alcohol Problems Service, has campaigned for minimum pricing for more than three years and was part of a group of top doctors who first recommended the measure aimed at tackling Scotland’s appalling record of alcohol abuse.

Dr Rice said:
“I was one of a group of doctors who initially called for minimum pricing about three and a half years ago,”

“We looked at a bunch of options to tackle alcohol harm and identified price was really important and minimum pricing was the best mechanism.

“We are pleased the (SNP) government has accepted that and followed it through.”

Mr Matheson said the misleading claims further underlined the need for the opposition to stop playing politics with Scotland’s chronic alcohol problem and address the issue seriously.
 
Commenting Mr Matheson said:
“Ross Finnie was completely and utterly wrong to claim Dr Rice rejected a 45p minimum price and today’s report leaves Mr Finnie in an embarrassing position. He should apologise to Dr Rice and actually address the case made for a 45p minimum price.
 
“The SNP Government and Nicola Sturgeon have been constructive on this issue and the proposed sunset clause is the means to test out this minimum price and allows the opposition a route to back this legislation.
 
“Minimum pricing isn’t a magic bullet – we have never said that it was. But it is one of the weapons we can deploy against the effects of cheap booze and we should not be blocked from using it.
 
“I would urge my colleagues in Parliament like Ross Finnie to actually listen to the experts, not misrepresent them and be mature enough to put people and health before their party politics.”

According to Scottish Government figures minimum pricing for alcohol would lead to 225 fewer alcohol related deaths per year, 4200 fewer hospital admissions annually and an £83 million reduction in health care costs over a 10 year period.

Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:
“For too long, too many Scots have been drinking themselves into an early grave,”

She added:
“It is no coincidence that as the affordability of alcohol has plummeted in recent decades, alcohol-related deaths, disease, crime and disorder have spiralled.

“I believe it’s crucial that we reintroduce realistic alcohol pricing. It cannot be right that a man can exceed his weekly recommended alcohol limit for less than £3.50. That’s why we’re taking decisive action, including proposals to introduce a minimum price per unit, which would bring these pocket money prices to an end.

“Getting the price right is vital for minimum pricing to work- too low and it will simply be ineffective. After careful consideration, we believe that 45p per unit is the right price.

“Our proposals have already won backing from respected health professionals at home and abroad and I hope, for the sake of our nation’s health, they will also win the backing of the Scottish Parliament.”

Meanwhile
Labour has upped its attack on the tonic wine Buckfast as it bids bid to have a caffeine legal limit imposed on alcoholic drinks; the move would effectively outlaw the sale of Buckfast in Scotland.

Labour’s proposals are part of tabled amendments to the Scottish government’s own legislation that contains minimum price per unit – a policy Labour oppose.

Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie has claimed that the consumption of caffeinated alcohol carries great risks and that those who drink such products are more likely to end up in hospital.

Ms Baillie said: “I believe that the risks involved in consuming caffeinated alcohol are so great that the Scottish Government must take action. The research suggests that you are more likely to end up in hospital or be assaulted if you drink these products.”

Labour wants to set the caffeine limit at 150mg per litre.  Buckfast currently contains 375mg per litre.

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