Scotland: Industry blasts minimum pricing

01 November, 2011

A minimum unit price for alcohol set out in today’s (November 1) Scottish government Bill is unlikely to reduce alcohol misuse, will threaten the £3.4 billion whisky industry and will punish moderate drinkers, according to the trade. 

The SWA said that the government’s research showed minimum pricing having “no impact on the proportion of heavy drinkers”. The SWA also said the new measures were a “violation of EU and international trade rules”.

The Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) said that the legislation would "punish the vast majority of resonable consumers with higher prices".

The Bill was introduced by MSP Nicola Sturgeon and her explanatory notes said: "The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill contains a provision to introduce a minimum price of alcohol in order to reduce alcohol consumption, in particular to reduce the consumption of alcohol by harmful drinkers and hence reduce alcohol related harm."

But the SWA claimed that minimum pricing on spirits has been ruled illegal by the European Court of Justice as it is seen as a barrier to trade which should not be used when other less trade restrictive means are available.

SWA chief executive Gavin Hewitt said: “The Scottish Government’s fixation with minimum pricing as the solution to alcohol-related harm is misguided. The impact of recent legislation has not yet been fully felt and many other measures to address alcohol misuse remain untested.

“The scotch whisky industry agrees that Scotland’s drinking culture has to change. We are working with the Scottish government to deliver that. Minimum pricing is the wrong policy option. It will not achieve the objective of a more healthy, positive and responsible attitude to alcohol.

“Claims that scotch whisky as a ‘premium product’ has nothing to fear from minimum pricing are misplaced. Within Scotland less affluent consumers who buy own-label scotch whisky will be hit, while the knock-on impact of copycat trade barriers overseas could lead to enormous damage in the industry’s export markets.

“Only last week the UK government confirmed that minimum pricing is probably illegal. A legal alternative would be to work with the UK government on a UK basis to remove tax discrimination between different drinks and introduce floor price for alcohol based on the revised duty rates and VAT.”

WSTA's chief executive Jeremy Beadles said that there was no evidence that minimum pricing would address the problem. 

He added: "As millions of families face the toughest economic conditions for a generation the Scottish Government is determined to press ahead with legislation that will punish the vast majority of responsible consumers with higher prices.

"Yet there is no evidence minimum pricing will address the problem of alcohol misuse and the most recent Government figures show alcohol consumption per capita fell in Scotland last year.

"The Scottish Parliament should insist on its right to review the policy and its impact on cross-border shopping, internet sales of alcohol and any evidence of illegal trade of alcohol in Scotland."

You can read the bill here .

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