Labour isolated as Tories reverse stance on minimum pricing

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By a Newsnet reporter

Welcoming the announcement that the Scottish Conservatives will now back the Scottish Government’s Alcohol (minimum pricing) (Scotland) Bill, SNP MSP Jim Eadie has said that Labour are now the last party in the Parliament not to back the proposals and are now completely isolated.

In a letter to Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson signalled a reversal of her party’s previous opposition to the minimum price proposals, saying that she accepted the plans would “command greater authority if given the widest political support”.

By a Newsnet reporter

Welcoming the announcement that the Scottish Conservatives will now back the Scottish Government’s Alcohol (minimum pricing) (Scotland) Bill, SNP MSP Jim Eadie has said that Labour are now the last party in the Parliament not to back the proposals and are now completely isolated.

In a letter to Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson signalled a reversal of her party’s previous opposition to the minimum price proposals, saying that she accepted the plans would “command greater authority if given the widest political support”.

However, before giving backing to the bill, the Ms Davidson said two key steps would need to be taken. A “sunset clause” to scrap the legislation if it was shown not to be working after five years and clarification of EU legality when the price was finally set.

Ms Sturgeon said she welcomed the Tories’ new-found support for the bill, which comes after reports that Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol after the next Budget.  The UK government intends to hold consultations with a target of imposing minimum pricing by April 2015, a month before a possible General Election.  

While welcoming the Conservatives’ change of heart, Mr Eadie, MSP for Edinburgh Southern and a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, pointed out that the sunset clause which Ms Davidson insisted on had been offered as a concession in the previous Parliament, however the Conservatives voted down the legislation.

Mr Eadie also noted that Labour in Scotland are now alone in their opposition to the move.  Speaking last December, Labour’s shadow public health minister Diane Abbott backed plans to introduce minimum pricing, and said “all the medical evidence points to the need for a minimum price per unit of alcohol.  Alcohol abuse is not just a health issue, it is a public order issue.”

Mr Eadie said:  “I warmly welcome this change of heart by the Scottish Conservatives. It follows reports at the weekend that Prime Minister David Cameron at the weekend that he would also now look to introduce a minimum price.

“It is a huge relief that they have now listened to the overwhelming evidence and support for this ground-breaking policy, from the police, health professionals – including all four of the UK’s Chief Medical Officers – alcohol charities, the Churches and many more.

“The sunset clause was of course offered to the Conservatives during the last Parliament, but they still voted to remove minimum pricing from the Alcohol Act.  I have no problem with this clause as I know that the benefits of minimum pricing will have become absolutely clear by then.

“Labour are now completely isolated in the Scottish Parliament – even their London party seem to be moving toward minimum pricing. There is still time for them to give their support to this policy – otherwise they will go down in history as the only party who voted against the most significant public health measure in Scotland since the smoking ban.”