The SNP has welcomed reports this weekend that Prime Minister David Cameron intends to follow Scotland’s lead and introduce a minimum price for alcohol.
It has been reported that the Prime Cameron is expected to unveil his plans within days of this month’s Budget, which is set to be presented on March 21.
SNP MSP Jim Eadie has said that there was now no excuse for the Conservatives in Scotland not to back the Scottish Government’s own proposals.
“David Cameron’s u-turn is extremely welcome. He has finally brushed aside the lobbying of the alcohol industry and instead listened to the over-whelming support amongst police, the medical profession, the churches, all four chief medical officers across the UK, alcohol charities and many more. It is time that the Scottish Tories did the same.”
In the last Scottish Parliamentary session Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats all opposed the Scottish Government’s proposals. However, new Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Willie Rennie, has since reversed his party’s position and agreed to work “positively” with the Scottish Government on its proposals.
The Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee is currently finalising its Stage 1 report on the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill and is expected to report shortly.
Eadie, a member of the committee, added:
“While Health Spokesman during the last Bill’s passage through Parliament, Murdo Fraser repeatedly claimed there would be ‘booze cruises’ if it was introduced in Scotland and not in England – now, if he had his way, the alleged booze cruises would be travelling in the other direction.
“Every single argument that the Tories have made against minimum pricing has been comprehensively rebutted. Their opposition to this ground-breaking policy is looking increasingly absurd – this is another line in the sand that Ruth Davidson should definitely be prepared to cross.”
The comments come as delegates at Scottish Labour’s spring conference voted in favour this weekend of giving conditional support to the Scottish Government’s controversial Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Bill. The motion stated that while there are concerns over the effectiveness of minimum unit pricing, there is an “overwhelming need to take action.” The proposer spoke positively about minimum pricing and called for the party to support the Bill, provided that a scheme that genuinely off-sets the extra profits to large alcohol retailers and complies with EU law is also introduced, along with a sunset clause and detailed evaluation process including fully assessing adverse effects particularly on poorer communities, families, and individuals.
Speaking in support of minimum pricing, Malcolm Chisholm MSP told delegates that it had been a “health policy and political error” to oppose minimum pricing and doing so had damaged the party’s “great public health reputation”. He said there was “overwhelming” evidence to suggest that the policy will have some effect and urged the party to support the Bill but complement it with other measures.
During her speech to conference, Labour’s shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Jackie Baillie announced that she has tasked Dr Richard Simpson MSP, who spent much of his career as a doctor dealing with addiction, and Graeme Pearson MSP, the former director general of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, to build on Labour’s alcohol commission work and produce a “comprehensive package of measures spanning health and justice” to address alcohol misuse.
The announcement sparked a reaction from former Public Health Minister, Shona Robison, who tweeted: “Not again! Yet more talk and no action.”