Scottish Labour urged to back minimum pricing as party MPs set to defy leader Lamont


By a Newsnet reporter

With the Scottish Parliament set to approve ground-breaking measures for a minimum price for alcohol today, the SNP have issued a last call to Scottish Labour to back the policy and avoid going down in history as the only Party not to back the measure.

When the policy last came before Parliament in 2010, the Greens, Margo McDonald and Malcolm Chisholm supported it, with Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives all voting against.

However, since then both then the Lib Dems and Conservatives have been persuaded by the evidence and will now back the ground-breaking measure.

In addition, all the major parties in Westminster have followed the SNP’s lead and are now in favour of minimum pricing.

The issue highlights the division between the Labour Party in Holyrood and at Westminster. A review of Labour’s 2011 election disaster led to Johann Lamont being elected as the first leader of all of Scottish Labour – rather than just the leader of Labour in the Scottish Parliament.

However, this change to Labour’s constitution now appears to be in tatters as Labour’s Scottish MPs – including Lamont’s Deputy Anas Sarwar – seem set to vote for the policy at Westminster.

Bob Doris says this begs the question of whether Johann Lamont is truly in charge of her party in Scotland or not.

Mr Doris, SNP MSP for Glasgow and Deputy Convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, said:

“Labour in Scotland is facing humiliation. The Scottish Parliament is on the verge of making history but – with the honourable exception of Malcolm Chisholm – they have completely isolated themselves on the wrong side of the argument.

“By contrast, the SNP Government has shown real leadership on this issue – winning the arguments and winning over the sceptics – at home and abroad.

“No one has ever said that minimum pricing on its own is a silver bullet, but its enormous health and social benefits are clear – it will save lives, it will cut crime, it will reduce hospital admissions, it will help the economy, and it will reduce the burden that alcohol misuse places on the taxpayer.

“That is why it has the overwhelming backing of the police, the ambulance service, doctors, nurses, children’s charities, faith groups and many more. If Labour won’t listen to them, who exactly will they listen to?”

Commenting on Scottish Labour’s support for minimum pricing at Westminster, Mr Doris added:

“The fact that Labour’s Scottish MPs – including their Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar – support the policy as part of the Westminster Labour group makes a mockery of Johann Lamont’s claim to be leader of all of Scottish Labour.

“But ultimately, if Johann Lamont wants to demonstrate real leadership, she has one last chance to put Labour’s dreadful politicking of the last few years behind her and back a policy which she knows is in the interests of the people of Scotland.”