Jim Mather, MSP for Argyll & Bute, has commented critically on the news that the minimum pricing of alcohol that was condemned as ‘impractical and unworkable’ by Tories, LibDems and Labour at Holyrood is now proposed by the Coalition government for England.
The Scottish Government’s proposal received widespread support from Health, Legal and Police opinion across Scotland.
Mr Mather decries the political cynicism capable of introducing in England, even in its presently diminished form, the same sort of measure ‘the London-led parties acted together to sabotage in Holyrood’.
This was a measure that relevant professionals judged capable of helping to tackle the serious social problems faced by the abuse of alcohol in Scotland.
The failure of the Scottish Parliament to resist the energetic lobbying from the drinks industry and to set aside political points scoring in the greater interests of an honourable attempt to address what is arguably Scotland’s greatest social and health problems was a low moment.
Jim Mather says: ‘The combined and concerted action against the proposals by the Scottish Government to introduce a realistic and effective level of Unit Minimum Pricing for alcohol can be seen for what it is: those same parties are now proposing a similar, but much less effective, system for England.
‘The Scottish Government’s sensible plans, widely backed by health professionals, for a genuine minimum unit price level were blocked by the combined efforts of Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.
‘They now appear to have conceded the principle at Westminster that they opposed so vigorously at Holyrood although the current proposals seem to be seriously compromised and unlikely to achieve much in combating the problems of alcohol abuse. The proposals to use the level of duty along with VAT as a control could actually result in the costs of some cheap sources of alcohol becoming even cheaper. Is this the ‘UK wide’ solution that they suggested would tackle the problem?
‘It is simply not acceptable to play political games while neglecting serious health issues. The weight of informed opinion in support of the SNP proposals was overwhelming and yet that was cynically ignored. I find it particularly disturbing that these parties felt unable to put aside their political prejudices when an genuine opportunity arose to take effective action to combat the widely recognised problems of alcohol misuse in Scotland’.