Scottish Labour now in last chance saloon

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By a Newsnet reporter

Commenting on this morning’s confirmation in Westminster that the Labour Party have joined the Coalition Government in U-turning on minimum pricing for alcohol, SNP MSP and Health Committee Member Jim Eadie has urged Scottish Labour once again to rethink their position, given that they are now completely isolated on the issue.

On Friday the UK Government announced it was proposing a minimum price of 40p per unit of alcohol in England and Wales – part of plans to cut binge drinking.

Responding to the Commons Statement by Home Secretary Theresa May, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper confirmed that Labour now indeed support the introduction of a minimum price.

In a statement issued on Friday, Ms Cooper said:

“Binge drinking is a serious problem that increases crime and puts considerable pressure on the NHS.  Action is needed to tackle crime and binge drinking, whilst recognising that most people drink responsibly and modestly and should not be penalised for doing so.

“That’s why Labour gave the police more powers to confiscate alcohol being drunk in the street and to tackle alcohol related anti-social behaviour.

“We support a minimum unit price where it prevents too low supermarket prices whilst protecting responsible pubs.  The debate about levels needs to be based on evidence of what will work.  But the Government needs to make sure it does not just create a cash windfall for the supermarkets, instead of lowering prices of other goods or supporting better prevention and treatment of alcohol abuse to cut crime further and save lives.”

Mr Eadie, who earlier this month wrote to Ed Milliband urging his party to back minimum pricing, said:

“I warmly welcome the U-turn performed by both the UK Government and the Labour opposition.  They have re-examined the detailed evidence and realised that this policy really is the only effective way of tackling alcohol pricing.  The SNP have been vindicated in their long campaign to have minimum pricing introduced.

“Minimum pricing does exactly what everyone agrees needs to be done – it targets cheap alcohol favoured by hazardous drinkers, while leaving responsible drinkers almost completely untouched.

“And of course responsible drinkers will also see much less of their taxes being spent on dealing with the dreadful health and criminal justice costs of irresponsible alcohol consumption.

“Scottish Labour are now very much in last chance saloon.  Their blinkered opposition has left them humiliated and completely isolated.

“They can still choose to listen to the growing body of evidence from doctors, nurses, the police, children’s charities, the churches and indeed their own London counterparts, or they can choose to go down in history as the only party not to support this ground-breaking public health measure.”