Minister in last-minute plea over alcohol pricing

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The health secretary yesterday made a last-minute attempt to persuade health ministers in the European Union to back his plan for a minimum unit price for alcohol.

Several EU trade ministers have raised objections to the Scottish Government’s plan to set a 50p price per unit of alcohol on the grounds that it would inhibit trade of their own alcohol products.

The European Commission’s consultation on the SNP-administration’s proposals closed yesterday and health secretary Alex Neil said he was asking trade ministers throughout the EU to back minimum pricing.

“It’s true that their trade ministers have lodged an objection but when you talk to their health ministers you get a different view,” he said yesterday.

“So, I’m communicating with the health ministers throughout the EU to persuade them to lend their voice within their governments and the EU Commission to our cause.”

The EC believes minimum pricing on alcohol is incompatible with EU regulations and should not be introduced.

It would prefer a wholesale increase in all alcohol prices through raising taxes, something outwith Holyrood’s control, or unspecified measures in Scottish regions where alcohol abuse is a problem rather than penalise the entire population.

But Mr Neil said such measures would not have the same impact as minimum pricing.

“We are working with the UK government to persuade the EC that this is the right thing to do and to allow minimum unit pricing,” he said.