Widespread backing for SNP Govt’s battle against booze culture

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By a Newsnet reporter

The Chief Executive of one of Scotland’s leading brewing companies has given his backing to the SNP government’s plans to introduce legislation on minimum pricing of alcohol.

Rooney Anand of Greene King, brewers of Belhaven beer and owners of over 1,600 pubs and licenced establishments across the UK, said that the SNP Government’s minimum pricing plans are progressive and that the UK Government’s policy of raising duty was “ineffective” and “indiscriminate”.

In a letter to the Scotsman newspaper, Mr Anand supported the minimum price proposals saying:

“Finding a way to help people drink responsibly is now imperative.  That is why we welcome and support the announcement by the SNP that it plans to reintroduce legislation on minimum pricing of alcohol within the next month.  This legislation will symbolise a national intent to change behaviour.  It will recognise what many people already believe: that a big part of the problem is that alcohol has become too cheap.”

Mr Anand believes that the Scottish Government’s bill is the best way to tackle problem drinking, and believes the progressive action being taken in Scotland is more likely to be effective than the policy of increasing alcohol duty which is favoured by the UK Government.  Mr Anand said:  

“A minimum price for alcohol would target irresponsible retailers and consumers.  If it is not introduced, I fear the UK government will continue to use duty to try to raise prices.  Not only is duty ineffective, as there is no guarantee it will be passed on to the consumer, but it is an indiscriminate one, penalising the majority of drinkers who buy and consume alcohol responsibly.”

Greene King’s support follows a similar move from Tennent’s last year.

Fiona McLeod, MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden and a Member of the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee welcomed Mr Anand’s contribution to the debate and said:

“Mr Anand’s comments are most welcome and add weight to the overwhelming case for introducing minimum pricing which is already supported by health professionals, police, charities, other drinks manufacturers and society at large.

“Excessive alcohol consumption, much of which stems from the abuse of cheap spirits and cider, costs Scotland £3.56bn per year – the equivalent of £900 per adult.

“It is for everyone’s benefit that we address the issue and minimum pricing will go some way to doing that.

“Since 2007 we have worked hard to gain consensus around the link between over-consumption and harm and have pioneered the whole population approach to alcohol misuse.

“Following the landslide victory in May the SNP Government has a majority in the Scottish Parliament, but we still aim to build consensus on this issue.

“I warmly welcome the Lib Dems’ recent u-turn on this issue, and with candidates in the Tory and Labour leadership contests also admitting they were wrong to oppose this policy last time, I can only hope they put public health before politics and support this Bill when it is reintroduced.”