Scottish health committee throws out minimum pricing

22 September, 2010

The Scottish Parliament’s Health & Sport Committee has rejected the ruling SNP’s plans for a 45p-per-unit minimum price for alcohol.

The committee debated the Alcohol Bill in which the measure was included as a government amendment at Stage 2, but it was defeated in a 5-3 vote this morning.

Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the government would bring forward a further amendment to include the measure at stage 3 of the Bill’s passage through Parliament.

Sturgeon said in the committee meeting: “My regret in this debate is that we haven’t got to a point where parties have listened to all the evidence before coming to the view that they oppose minimum pricing. My concern is that opposition parties reached that view before they’d heard a shred of evidence.

“I’ve consistently said I’d be open to alternatives but here we are debating at Stage Two and no one has brought forward an alternative”

Sturgeon had proposed a compromise “sunset clause” which would see the measure automatically be reviewed after six years.

One committee member expressed concern about what might happen if a sunset clause was included.

Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said: “If it was found not to work, a sunset clause would just encourage people to consume more after a six-year period [when the price came down again].”

SNP member Michael Matheson told the committee: “By taking minimum pricing out of the bill you take away one of the most important tools in the box to deal with this issue, which is affordability.”

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