SNP MSP for the South of Scotland Michael Russell strongly criticised the decision by MSPs on Holyrood’s Health Committee to vote against minimum pricing of alcohol.
The proposal for minimum pricing, which is backed by the BMA, the police, all four UK medical officers, drinks manufacturers and landlords was opposed by an alliance of Labour, the Tories and the Lib Dems despite the SNP Government offering a trial period for the policy through a sunset clause.
Minimum pricing at 45p would have saved 50 lives in its first year. The SNP will now put the proposal before the whole Parliament giving all MSPs the opportunity to express their view.
Mr Russell said:
“On the same day that the Dumfries Standard carried a story highlighting a significant rise in the numbers of deaths in the region from alcohol-related causes, it beggars belief that opposition MSPs refused to support even a trial period of minimum pricing.
“In the same article a spokesman for NHS Dumfries & Galloway re-stated the Health Board’s support for the policy. Labour’s Russell Brown however thinks that it would result in millions of pounds of extra profits for the supermarkets, which entirely misses the point. The whole purpose of minimum pricing is to reduce alcohol consumption, and change purchasing patterns.
“The Scottish Government’s policy is supported by a vast range of organisations including the World Health Organisation, the British Medical Association, the Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland, Scotland’s Health Boards and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, to name but a few.
“It is hard to understand why, in the face of this broad cross section of support from civic society, my colleagues in other political parties continue to play politics with the issue rather than recognising its merits after very many politically independent organisations have done just that.
“I hope that when the Alcohol Bill reaches Stage 3 individual MSPs will examine their consciences and vote on the basis of the evidence and the urgent need to change Scotland’s relationship with alcohol, rather than toeing the party line.”