Scotland has a “historic opportunity” to lead world with minimum pricing


A former president of the Royal College of Physicians has urged opposition MSPs to seize a “historic opportunity” and back the Scottish government’s plans for alcohol minimum pricing.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, who is chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said it would be a great disappointment if the Scottish Government’s plans were rejected.

The Alcohol Bill is due to come before the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday and the SNP’s Unionist opponents have threatened to block minimum price proposals despite overwhelming backing from health professionals and other bodies in Scotland and across the UK.

Professor Gilmour said: “Doctors in England have been greatly encouraged by the evidence-based approach to tackling alcohol misuse that has been proposed in Scotland.

“It would be a great disappointment if minimum unit pricing is not supported by the Scottish Parliament as we would want to encourage politicians in England to follow in Scotland’s footsteps, as we did on smoke-free legislation.”

Professor Gilmour also warned that demands from Holyrood’s Labour and Tory groups that Scotland’s alcohol problem be left to the Westminster coalition may not result in a solution.

He added:

“If opposition politicians are hoping that the Westminster government will take the lead on tackling cheap alcohol prices, they may be disappointed.

“Minimum unit pricing is a workable solution for preventing the sale of cheap alcohol. Scotland has a historic opportunity to show the rest of the world what it means to be a public health pioneer, I hope the Parliament embraces that opportunity.”

Labour are expected to oppose minimum pricing and instead try to amend the bill by limiting the amount caffeine alcoholic products can contain to 150mg per litre.  The move would effectively ban Buckfast tonic wine from being sold in Scotland.  However such legislation is believed to be reserved to Westminster and would need a change to The Scotland Act for Holyrood to act.

The caffeine limit was recently endorsed by Labour’s self styled ‘Alcohol Commission’ which itself concluded that a minimum pricing mechanism was a good idea but suggested production costs and duty be used instead of alcoholic content.  However it later emerged that many of the commission’s recommendations and claims had little or no evidence backing them.