Scots Booze Problem: Labour Group Backs Limit on Caffeine

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A group set up by the Labour party in Scotland to look at Scotland’s chronic booze problem are expected to reaffirm their support for the party’s plans to limit the amount of caffeine in alcoholic drinks.

The group of individuals, termed by Labour ‘The Alcohol Commission’, are expected to publish their findings soon and according to media reports will refuse to join professional bodies in backing the Scottish governments’s minimum price for alcohol plans.


A group set up by the Labour party in Scotland to look at Scotland’s chronic booze problem are expected to reaffirm their support for the party’s plans to limit the amount of caffeine in alcoholic drinks.

The group of individuals, termed by Labour ‘The Alcohol Commission’, are expected to publish their findings soon and according to media reports will refuse to join professional bodies in backing the Scottish governments’s minimum price for alcohol plans.

The group, headed by former Labour party member and retired professor of education Sally Brown, was set up in February this year in response to the Scottish National Party’s alcohol bill that included minimum price for alcohol.

Minimum pricing for alcohol, that sets a minimum price per unit, has already been supported by the Labour party in Wales who are to request new powers from Westminster in order to implement the policy.  Labour councillors in the north of England have also backed the proposals, as have House of Commons health bodies.

PM David Cameron has expressed a favourable view on the policy and Labour MSPs Susan Deacon and Malcolm Chisholm have given their backing.

If, as reports indicate, the group refuses to back minimum pricing in Scotland then members will have set themselves against police and health professionals north and south of the border and will re-inforce claims by critics that its set-up was no more than a delaying tactic by Labour in Scotland to prevent the SNP bringing in a key piece of health legislation.

The group are expected to recommend a UK-wide minimum price system based on banning alcohol sales below the combined cost of production, duty and VAT, this is to be coupled with hikes on duty.  Earlier this year, the group backed Labour’s proposals for a legal limit on the caffeine content of alcoholic drinks – the move would effectively ban the tonic wine Buckfast.

Prof Brown said:
“It is essential that Scotland is very serious about resolving its alarming problems of alcohol misuse.

“We need a broad-based, coherent and effective strategy that recognises the complexities of the difficulties we face – there is no silver bullet that will provide a quick fix.”

74 year old Ms Brown was initially approached to head the group late last year by Labour’s shadow health secretary, Jackie Baillie, and by Brown’s neighbour, Richard Simpson, the Labour MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife who was also a friend of Brown’s late husband.  It is understood that Brown had no say in the group’s make up and all members were selected by the Labour party itself, half of the members are Labour politicians.

When the group was initially set up Brown claimed: “Our job will be to pull together whatever empirical evidence there is — not that I’m expecting to find much. It’s very important that people are conscious of whether they are making a decision on gut feeling or hard evidence.”

However Brown herself appeared to pre-empt her group’s findings when she then claimed that minimum unit pricing would unfairly penalise “moderate drinkers who are poor”.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has urged urgent action in Scotland saying:
“We must tackle Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol as the cost to society – both in financial and human terms – is simply unsustainable.”

She added:
“I believe that minimum pricing is a policy whose time has come. While it’s not a magic bullet, it would effectively target problem drinkers and help them reduce their alcohol consumption.

“Minimum pricing offers Scotland the chance to lead the way in the UK, just as we did by introducing a ban on smoking in public places. Growing numbers of people, including numerous influential health bodies, are already convinced that this is policy which would deliver results.”