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Scots vote against minimum pricing proposal

The Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee has voted to remove minimum pricing from the Alcohol (Scotland) Bill.

The vote at stage two of the process is the second time the minimum price proposal has been defeated in a Scottish Parliamentary vote and serves to reiterate the lack of political support the measure has in the country.

The result has been welcomed by the drinks industry and economists alike.

Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: “Today’s Committee vote sends the clearest of signals that it is time to build a consensus around an alternative, more effective tax-based measure at a UK level to address alcohol misuse.

“Scotch whisky distillers welcome the opposition parties’ recognition that minimum pricing would be ineffective and illegal.

“Minimum pricing would not address alcohol harm in Scotland, but would cause significant damage to Scotch whisky at home and abroad.

“There is a strong case for root and branch reform of the UK excise duty system so that all alcohol is taxed on a fair and responsible basis, according to alcohol content, with a legal ‘floor price’ introduced by banning sales below tax.”

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) added its view that minimum pricing would only hit consumers hard in the pockets without significantly reducing problem drinking.

Benjamin Williamson, senior economist at CEBR, said: "This outcome reflects the consistent findings of our research, that minimum pricing – including at the 45p per unit level proposed – would not target problem drinkers and could have a genuine negative economic impact in terms of jobs, trade and costs to the consumer.

“Specifically, our research indicated that a minimum price of 45p per unit would only reduce harmful drinkers’ consumption by less than one pint a week, whilst costing the responsible majority an extra £236 million per year. The costs of the policy would vastly outweigh its claimed benefits.”

Alan Lodge, 22.09.2010

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