Scottish Labour suggests 'floor price' for alcohol

By Ewan Turney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Alcohol, Minimum price, Scotland, Scottish national party, Scottish government

Supermarket beer: would a floor price make a difference?
Supermarket beer: would a floor price make a difference?
The Government should set a UK-wide "floor price" for alcohol based on the cost of production, duty and VAT rather than a minimum price, according to...

The Government should set a UK-wide "floor price" for alcohol based on the cost of production, duty and VAT rather than a minimum price, according to a commission set up by the Scottish Labour Party.

It also said there should be a social responsibility levy on alcohol producers, a limit on the number of licences and a ban on sponsorship of sporting events.

The commission, chaired by Professor Sally Brown, considered alternatives to minimum pricing. Under a "floor pricing" scheme, the Government would be able to use duty as a lever for increasing prices.

"We are agreed that increasing the price of alcohol should be part of a broader package to reduce levels of abuse," said Professor Brown. "Our view is that taxation should be the main lever for raising prices because the additional revenue raised goes to the public purse.

"Some of our recommendations may be challenging, but they are also necessary if we really want to deal with this problem and not just talk about it."

Passing the buck

The Scottish Government promised it would consider all workable alternatives to minimum pricing but Nicola Sturgeon, deputy leader of the ruling Scottish National Party, said Labour would be passing the buck to Westminster.

"Labour's Alcohol Commission makes some constructive suggestions for debate, but it ducks the central issue of tackling the cost of alcohol sold at pocket money prices in Scotland," she said.

"In this vital area, it recommends passing the buck to Westminster. Why leave it to a UK coalition government — which at best has shown a lukewarm response to tackling the issue of cost — when we could take better, more effective steps ourselves?

"The reason for having a Scottish Parliament is to address the issues we face as a nation, and the Scottish Government believe that we have a responsibility to use these powers to address Scotland serious problem of alcohol misuse — including introducing minimum unit pricing — particularly when figures published today show that both men and women in Scotland are more likely to exceed government safe drinking guidelines than people in England.

"A ban on alcohol below the aggregate of duty and VAT is not a serious alternative to minimum pricing because it would create a price so low it would have no impact on the levels drunk — and therefore no impact on the harm and misery caused."

Wine and Spirit Trade Association spokesman Gavin Partington said: "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.

"However it is misguided to propose a ban on alcohol advertising or sponsorship of sporting events. Such a move would threaten jobs and livelihoods across the media industry while doing nothing to tackle problem drinking."

Related topics: Legislation

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