Minimum pricing Bill set to be re-introduced

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By a Newsnet reporter
 
The Scottish government has announced its intention to re-introduce the Bill for minimum price per unit alcohol.
 
The flagship policy, supported by police, health professionals and voluntary organisations was controversially voted down by opposition parties during the SNP’s last term in office.

However Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has said that it is now time for Scotland’s Parliament to join forces with those across Scotland who are serious about tackling our battle with alcohol misuse, as the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Bill was published.

The Bill looks to set a minimum price for a unit of alcohol as a condition of licence.  It also sets the formula for calculating the minimum price (based on the strength of the alcohol, the volume of the alcohol and a price per unit of alcohol).

A specific minimum price per unit of alcohol will be announced during the Bill process.  This will follow a rerun of their minimum price modelling by the University of Sheffield to reflect the most up to date data.

Support for minimum pricing has come from all quarters – the Welsh Government, Northern Ireland Executive, all 17 of Scotland’s public health directors in NHS Scotland, the Chief Medical Officer of Scotland Sir Harry Burns, British Medical Association, the Royal Colleges, ACPOS, Scottish Licensed Trade Association, Church of Scotland, various children’s charities, Tennents, Molson Coors and Greene King.

Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing Nicola Sturgeon said:

“Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol is one of the most pressing public health challenges facing us as a nation and we need to take action to tackle it.  Here we have a second opportunity to add the missing piece in the legislative jigsaw – introducing minimum pricing.  I urge my parliamentary colleagues to take it.

“We should not lose sight of what has been achieved during the last four years.  We have had a wide ranging debate on alcohol pricing and there is now widespread recognition across the country of the need to tackle pricing.

“We have introduced a ban on quantity discounts and promotions in off-sales have been restricted, but already we have seen that without minimum pricing these attempts to take action on Scotland’s alcohol problem are being undermined.  By setting a minimum price for a unit of alcohol, we can raise the price of the cheap supermarket white ciders, lager and value spirits sought out by problem drinkers.

“I hope that this time around MSPs will do the right thing and back this policy that has the support of doctors, nurses, the police and growing numbers of the general population.  I will not shirk from leading the way in addressing this challenge. It is time for Scotland to win its battle with the booze.”

Dr Linda de Caestecker, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Director of Public Health Medicine, voiced strong support for the new legislation and said:

“Greater Glasgow and Clyde experiences some of the highest alcohol related death rates in the UK and in the Western world.  I strongly support minimum pricing as a key action to reduce over-consumption of alcohol in Scotland. Instead of leading the league table of alcohol related harm, Scotland now has the chance to lead the way in tackling alcohol problems.”

Labour MSP Dr Richard Simpson claimed the plans would not tackle binge drinking and would in fact lead to £140 million going to supermarkets.  His party colleague MSP Jackie Baillie criticised the Bill and said that Labour didn’t feel it was the correct measure, Ms Baillie claimed there were questions over the legality of the proposal. 

However Scottish Labour leadership candidate Ken Macintosh last night announced he now supported minimum pricing of alcohol.  Speaking on Scotland Tonight on STV Mr Macintosh said he would work with the SNP to tackle Scotland’s drink culture.

Mr Macintosh’s rival for the leadership role Tom Harris claimed that Labour blundered in the last Scottish parliament by opposing minimum pricing.  Mr Harris called it a “colossal mistake” given that the SNP had offered a ‘sunset clause’ that would have allowed a review of the legislation.  

The drinks industry are threatening to fight the legislation and there are fears that this could lead to lengthy delays in its introduction.

The cost of alcohol consumption in Scotland is estimated to cost £3.56 billion each year, £900 for every adult.

A 45p per unit minimum price which was proposed in the last Parliament was estimated to result in the following benefits:

  • Reduction in deaths in year 1 by 50
  • Reduction in deaths per year by year 10 by 225
  • Fewer hospital admissions in year 1 by 1,200
  • Fewer hospital admissions per year by year 10 by 4,200
  • Fewer cases of violent crime by 400 per year
  • Fewer days absent from work by 22,900
  • Fewer numbers unemployed by 1,200

The total value of harm reduction for health, crime and employment in year one is £52 million and £721 million over 10 years. (Figures taken from University of Sheffield modelling for Scotland updated and published in April 2010.)

Sheffield are currently re-running the model with the most up to date data which includes the Scottish Health Survey 2010 data which was published on September 27, 2011.