Doctors leaders welcome alcohol pricing plans
Thursday, 5 August 2010
Doctors leaders in Scotland have welcomed plans for a minimum price on alcohol which the Scottish government yesterday signalled could be introduced on a “try it and see” basis.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon is proposing the introduction of a “sunset clause” that would allow the proposals to be tried out to see if they reduced consumption. Speaking after an all-party “alcohol summit” yesterday she said the clause would be added to the Alcohol Bill currently going through the Scottish Parliament.
The policy would then be reviewed after a set period. The ruling Scottish National Party has previously suggested that the minimum price could be set at 40p per unit but it will announce its intended price, which would also be included in the Alcohol Bill, following talks with opposition parties.
A BMA Scotland spokesperson said the BMA “would welcome the introduction of minimum pricing and a review to evaluate the effectiveness of the policy”.
The spokesperson added that the BMA is convinced by the evidence that exists to link price and consumption and from the modelling work undertaken by Sheffield University, “that a minimum pricing approach would reduce the social and health harms associated with excessive alcohol consumption, sadly a trademark of Scotland's drinking culture."
The BMA welcomes the all Scottish political parties support tougher enforcement of existing licensing laws and says it would support the introduction of a mandatory “Challenge 25” scheme where retailers could challenge anyone who did not appear to be 25 or over.
However, BMA Scotland does not believe that banning the sale of alcohol below the cost of duty and VAT will make any real difference in tackling Scotland’s problems with alcohol. It says that under this scheme, many drinks such as supermarket brand vodka and ciders could continue to be sold at ridiculously cheap prices, and in some circumstances could be even cheaper than they are now.
“The opposition parties have all supported this approach but recognise that it is not sufficient and have also called for a review of the taxation system, at a UK level, to ensure duty reflects alcohol content.”
The BMA supports a review of the taxation system, to operate alongside minimum pricing, but says it is not confident that the UK coalition government will deliver. “At the emergency budget in June, the Chancellor reversed the increase in cider duties ensuring that strong, cheap alcohol remained on our supermarket shelves.
“It is disappointing that Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative politicians do not have the courage to take this bold step towards improving Scotland’s health.”