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Scottish Parliament approves Alcohol Bill, but without minimum pricing

Members of the Scottish Parliament approved the Alcohol Bill presented by the Scottish National Party government but minimum pricing of alcohol was rejected. Other key measures that failed to win approval were - banning combination alcohol promotions (eg alcohol with a meal), banning the awarding of loyalty card points for alcohol, a minimum age of 21 for off-sale purchases, and the banning of caffeinated alcoholic beverages.

The measures that were approved were:

  • A ban on quantity discounts such as ‘three for two’ or ‘25 per cent off when you buy six’
  • Alcohol promotions permitted only in the designated alcohol sales area of off-sales outlets
  • The introduction of a Challenge 25 age verification scheme for all licensed premises
  • Paving the way for the introduction of a social responsibility levy in areas where alcohol causes significant police, health and social care costs.

Removal of minimum pricing from Alcohol Bill a ‘missed opportunity’ say health campaigners

The BMA, Alcohol Focus Scotland and Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) joined together to express ‘deep disappointment’ over the Health Committee’s decision to remove minimum pricing from the Alcohol Bill.

Dr Brian Keighley, Chairman of the BMA in Scotland said:

“This is a missed opportunity for our parliamentarians who had a real opportunity to drive forward public health policy, not just in Scotland but in the rest of the world. I am frustrated and disappointed that the debate on such a serious health issue has been polarised and that many opposition MSPs had made their minds up before even considering the evidence presented to the Committee. The inclusion of a ‘sunset clause’ offered an opportunity to test the effectiveness of minimum pricing and provide doubters with the reassurances they had initially sought. Sadly, now we will never know.

“I hope that this is not the end of the debate on how we tackle the increasing affordability of alcohol, but signals the beginning of a mature, non-partisan approach to address Scotland’s relationship with alcohol.”

Dr Evelyn Gillan, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said:

“The removal of minimum pricing will render the other measures in the Bill much less effective. Cheap alcohol is driving consumption and harm and politicians in Scotland have wasted an opportunity to do something about it. To reject minimum pricing without offering a credible alternative is to abdicate responsibility for the health and wellbeing of the people of Scotland.”

Tom Roberts, Project Director of SHAAP, said:

“During their deliberations on the Alcohol Bill, Health Committee members have all voiced the opinion that price is a significant factor in levels of alcohol consumption. It is therefore deeply disappointing that they have voted to remove action on price from the Bill without putting in place any alternative. This vote has weakened the Bill and therefore weakened our response to Scotland’s alcohol problems.”