Scottish minimum alcohol price policy rejected

The Scottish Government’s bid to introduce a minimum price for alcohol has been rejected by the country’s Parliament.

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Members of the Scottish Parliament have voted 76 to 49 against introducing a minimum price of 45p per unit of alcohol.

The ruling Scottish National Party had put minimum pricing at the heart of the Alcohol Bill it introduced to tackle alcohol misuse.

Other measures aimed at curbing binge drinking, however, were passed. “Three for two” promotions and deep discounting on multipack cases have been banned, while “a social responsibility levy” on pubs and clubs will be introduced.

The news is a fillip to the alcohol industry, which has argued that minimum pricing would have little impact on public health and would penalise the majority of responsible drinkers.

Simon Litherland, managing director of Diageo GB, welcomed the result.

“As we have previously stated, we firmly believed minimum pricing was not an effective solution in tackling alcohol misuse. The debate has clearly moved on and now we can look forward to working collectively with other stakeholders in Scotland and the UK to support targeted interventions which can make a real difference to dealing with the problem of alcohol misuse,” he says.

Public health charities, however, were disappointed with the outcome. Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems described the development as a “lost opportunity to make significant improvements in the health and welfare of the population…..”.

The coalition Government in Westminster has so far ruled out minimum pricing but does want to see an end to the sale of alcohol below cost price. A consultation aimed at defining “below cost” has recently ended with options expected to be presented by the end of the year.

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