Gavin Partington: This is policy that will hit everyone

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A PRINCIPLED objection to minimum pricing is that the government is intervening in private business, but the main objection to minimum pricing is that it is a policy that will hit everyone.

The impact will be felt by people buying moderately cheap bottles of wine and other drinks of moderate strength and price.

At the same time, the policy does not focus on problem drinks or problem issues associated with alcohol abuse such as antisocial behaviour.

There are signs that Scotland’s relationship with alcohol is moving in the right direction, but, at the same time, we are not seeing a significant reduction in antisocial behaviour.

In addition, we have seen no evidence to suggest that minimum pricing will tackle alcohol abuse.

There’s overwhelming evidence to suggest that the main problem drinkers would not be deterred by increased alcohol prices. The Scottish Government’s approach is misguided and probably illegal.

The UK public health minister, Anne Milton, has said that the UK government’s legal advice is that minimum pricing would be illegal and it suggested the Scottish Government’s plans could be open to a legal challenge.

Another issue we have to consider is that the SNP’s plans will not affect internet sales, and there may be a problem with cross-border sales.

There’s no doubt that the SNP has the numbers to get this through the Scottish Parliament, but given some of the evidence we’ve heard about the policy and how it would work, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon should order an independent inquiry into the policy.

• Gavin Partington is communications director of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association