UK 'to follow Scotland's example' over alcohol prices
DEMANDS for minimum alcohol pricing across the UK have been made by the government's top medical adviser.
The call by Sir Liam Donaldson follows the lead on the issue made by the Scottish Government earlier this month.
Sir Liam has supported the argument that minimum pricing may deter people from drinking so much and has agreed with anti-alcohol campaigners that there should be a 50p per unit price. This is even higher than the 40p per unit that the Scottish Government has hinted it is considering.
It would mean most bottles of wine could not be sold for less than 4.50 and it could see some alcohol, particularly cheap spirits, double in price.
However, it has also revealed splits within the UK government ranks.
Last week Whitehall sources were warning that the Scottish Government proposal to introduce minimum pricing may be illegal because it could break EU competition laws.
Several organisations representing retailers and the alcohol industry have made it clear they are prepared to test the legislation in the courts.
On Friday the Scotch Whisky Association claimed it had found legal precedent dating back to 1978 showing that minimum pricing is illegal.
But yesterday Sir Liam, who is understood to have decided to make a stand as a result of the Scottish Government's previous announcement, is adamant in his report that the move was needed to reduce binge drinking in the UK and improve people's health.
A UK Department of Health spokeswoman made it clear that the policy is being considered.
"We have not ruled out taking action on very cheap alcohol – it's clearly linked to people drinking more and the subsequent harm to their health," she said.
A Scottish Government spokesman said that Sir Liam's stance showed how out of step the opposition parties were in Holyrood.
Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have grouped together to delay implementation of minimum pricing in Scotland by insisting that it is done through legislation rather than introduced through the Scottish Government's licensing powers.
And, despite UK Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg's support for minimum pricing, Scottish Lib Dem leaders were yesterday insisting at the party conference in Perth that they oppose the measure because of its impact on the whisky industry.
The spokesman for Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "Alcohol misuse is a major problem north and south of the Border, and we welcome reports that the UK government are taking the first steps in following key aspects of the Scottish Government's proposals.
"As in the ban on smoking in public places, it is clear Scotland is again ahead of the game."
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 23 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 5 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North east