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Legality issues 'will not derail' min alcohol pricing

The Scottish Government is committed to “pushing” its Minimum Pricing Bill for alcohol through Parliament regardless of the legality issues around EU trade laws, it is claimed.

Speaking at the annual Nursing in Practice conference in Glasgow on 28 February, the Director of Operations at Alcohol Focus Scotland Barbara O'Donnell said the bill is expected to become an act “during early summer”.

The reported confusion surrounding the legality of a minimum price per unit of alcohol is believed to possibly jeopardise the Scottish Government's plans, but O'Donnell said any legal issues "will not derail plans" and will be “dealt with and investigated” after the bill has gone through.

“The Minimum Pricing Bill will be passed, I'm very confident of that,” she said.

“The Scottish Government is committed to pushing the bill through and any legal issues that arise will be a matter for the courts once the bill has become an act.

“The real issue for the government is setting a minimum price that will remain effective with inflation.”

A spokesperson from the Scottish Government told NiP the bill is being driven forward because it is believed to be "capable" of complying with European law.

O'Donnell also backed comments made by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon to Scotland's Health Committee, in which she claimed grocery bills for items such as bananas will be reduced thanks to increases in alcohol prices.

Labour party spokesperson Dr Richard Simpson deemed the comments as “utterly bananas” and served to “undermine her own argument” in The Express.

“Most supermarkets reduce the price of alcohol to increase footfall. By raising the price of alcohol, supermarkets will have to try other ways of increasing footfall - such as lowering the price of bread or bananas,” said O'Donnell.

“I agree wholeheartedly with Sturgeon's comments made to the committee.”

Alcohol misuse is believed to cost Scottish taxpayers £3.56bn every year, amounting to £900 per person.

According to O'Donnell, male deaths from alcohol misuse increased by 10% among Scottish men last year alone and there has been a 450% increase in liver cirrhosis mortality in Scotland during the past 30 years.

She also said Scottish women now drink more than English men.

"In a society where a man's weekly alcohol limit can be bought for about £4 and a teenager can consume enough alcohol to kill themselves for under £5, tackling price is nothing short of essential," said a spokesperson from the Scottish Government.

"Evidence shows us that affordability is one of the drivers of increased consumption and minimum pricing will target heavy drinkers as they tend to drink the cheap, high strength alcohol that will be most affected by the policy. That is why we are committed to the introduction of minimum pricing."

By Louise Naughton

Question: Do you agree with the Scottish Government's Alcohol Minimum Pricing Bill?