Scottish Labour says no to minimum pricing

Scottish Labour’s Alcohol Commission has rejected the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) proposal for minimum pricing.

Scottish Labour's health spokeswoman, Jackie Baillie told the BBC: "The Alcohol Commission has produced a challenging and radical report, which clearly rejects the SNP's proposal for minimum unit pricing and suggests a variety of areas for action.

"I want to see the Scottish and UK governments give serious consideration to its recommendations about how we can tackle alcohol abuse."

The move has been welcomed by trade bodies.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) spokesman Gavin Partington said: "We welcome the commission's recognition that changing Scotland's culture in relation to alcohol requires an emphasis on education, community action and collaboration at local level.

"The commission rightly recognises that there is no silver bullet to tackle alcohol misuse and that the proposal to introduce a minimum price for alcohol is flawed.”

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said it supported moves towards a UK-wide ban on sales below tax, combined with excise duty reform so that all alcohol was taxed at the same rate, according to alcohol content.

According to the SWA, scotch whisky drinkers currently pay 250% more duty per unit of alcohol than cider drinkers.

The duty on whisky is 37% greater than beer and 30% higher than wine. By progressively moving to an equitable system where all drinks are taxed at the same rate, the Government could generate more than £1 billion a year extra revenue according to independent analysis commissioned by the SWA.

Gavin Hewitt, SWA chief executive, said: “Excise duty reform is long overdue. It could bring significant extra revenue for Government. Combined with a ban on sales below tax to set a legal ‘floor price’ for alcohol, duty reform could also address concerns at low priced drinks on a UK-wide basis.”

The Association welcomed the Scottish Labour party’s scepticism of a proposal to restrict alcohol sponsorship and advertising, saying such a move would damage local community groups, tourism, and important support for many cultural and sporting events.

A suggestion that alcoholic drinks should not be served at Scottish Government or Parliamentary functions was dismissed by the Association, which said that scotch whisky should be showcased as a premium Scottish product at such events.