Minimum price for alcohol passes without Labour support

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By G.A.Ponsonby
 
The Scottish Government’s minimum price for alcohol policy has been passed tonight after MSPs voted in favour of the proposal.
 
Scottish Labour were the only party to refuse to back the policy which will enter into legislation next Spring after MSPs backed it by 86 votes to 1.

Welcoming the vote, SNP MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, John Mason said it was high time the sale of ultra-cheap forms of alcohol, priced with young people especially in mind, was curtailed in Scotland’s shops.

The bill bans the sale of alcohol at under 50p a unit, which is roughly equivalent to a shot of spirits, a small glass of wine, or half a pint of beer.

Commenting from Parliament after the vote, Mr Mason MSP said:

“The first constituent into my office last Monday morning was complaining about alcohol.  Her weekend had been totally ruined by people drinking in her close and urinating in full view of her kids.  And only this morning an Accident and Emergency staff member was telling me on the train of the huge numbers of drink related admissions they receive.  This behaviour is not acceptable and Scotland’s relationship with the bottle has to change.

“With the new legislation passed tonight, the minimum price per unit of alcohol is to be 50p.  That is a significant step forward. 

“Let’s not forget where we’ve come from in this debate, though.  When minimum pricing was first mooted by the SNP, all of the opposition parties in Holyrood opposed it and voted it down. 

“Now, just a couple of years on, we see the Tories and the Liberal Democrats making a complete u-turn and backing the policy.   So it is now only the Labour Party that seem isolated in their position of wanting more talk but no action.”

Mr Mason said that too many people were drinking too much and the costs to society, in terms of hospital admissions and crime, meant that it was time for it to stop.

Mr Mason added:

“Minimum pricing is not a magic bullet – we need education and lots more as well, but there is widespread support for trying minimum pricing – from the medical profession, police forces, charities and from significant parts of the drinks and licensed trade industry. 

“The question tonight is, if so many of my constituents and Tenents Brewers back minimum pricing, why can’t the Labour Party?”

Scottish Labour claim that the policy will lead to increased profits going to supermarkets and have cited a figure of £124 million. 

However the Scottish Government has insisted that the policy needs to be monitored in order to gauge whether excessive profits are indeed generated and have introduced a public health levy they say will claw back almost £100 million over three years.

Previously Labour had opposed the ban claiming it was illegal.  They also proposed an alternative that would have led to the amount of caffeine in alcoholic drinks being limited.