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Minimum pricing supported despite concerns

The Health Committee report on the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill highlighted a difference of opinion from members. The majority were persuaded that the measure will help to reduce alcohol consumption, recognising a ‘clear link’ between price and the amount of alcohol consumed.

The report reads: “A majority of the committee are persuaded by the Scottish Government’s assertion that the Bill will help reduce alcohol consumption in Scotland, because they consider the evidence received to be both overwhelming and compelling, in particular reducing the consumption of alcohol by harmful drinkers, and the impact of alcohol misuse on public health, crime, public services, productivity and the economy as a whole.”

However, a minority of members were ‘sceptical’ about the Bill, with concerns that minimum pricing could penalise moderate drinkers, or those on low incomes. The preferred minimum price of 50p per unit was proposed.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We welcome confirmation that a majority of the health and sport committee now consider the evidence in favour of the minimum pricing to be both overwhelming and compelling.

“There continues to be substantial support for the policy, and this government was re-elected on a mandate to introduce it.”

Dr Brian Keighley, chairman of the BMA inScotlandwelcomed the acceptance of a strong link between the two factors, but called for further support for minimum pricing, based on best evidence.

He said: “The BMA supports the model of minimum pricing proposed by the Scottish Government, not because it is perfect, but because of all the options available to us, this is likely to be the most effective at preventing the sale of high alcohol, low price drinks. It will also be enforceable and is targeted to have a greater impact on the heaviest drinkers. And in our view the evidence demonstrates that by increasing the price, consumption will fall which will reduce alcohol related hospital admissions and deaths.

“The Scots drinking culture is out of step with the rest ofEurope and the NHS is buckling under the pressure created by harm this causes. We must use every opportunity to change the nation’s drinking habits.”

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