Published on Monday 30 April 2012 16:42
A law setting a minimum price for alcohol will be ditched after six years if the policy does not work, MSPs have agreed.
The “sunset clause” was put forward by Conservatives as a bargain to secure their support for the SNP plan, which has passed its second of three parliamentary hurdles.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, who appeared before Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee, said: “The sunset clause is a response to concerns from some members that minimum testing hasn’t been tried elsewhere. I think that is a perfectly reasonable and legitimate position to take.”
The clause was suggested by Tory MSP Jackson Carlaw, who sits on the committee, who said: “This is a crucial moment for Scotland in battling its problems with alcohol, which are deep-rooted and unacceptable. This process has also shown how the Scottish Conservatives can deliver for Scotland in the face of a majority SNP Government.
“We remain sceptical about minimum pricing but by securing this exit clause it means the project can be properly rolled out and evaluated at a later stage. If it is found not to be working, that means we can drop it without being stuck with measures that are unpopular and unworkable.”
The Scottish Government’s Alcohol Minimum Pricing Bill is making its second passage through Parliament after defeat in 2010 when the SNP was in a minority administration.
Labour is the only party not to have supported the revised legislation when it was debated at the first stage in March this year. The party failed again in an attempt to strike out any windfall profits made by retailers after a floor price for alcohol is set.
Labour health spokesman Dr Richard Simpson argued that the Government should estimate what profits are made through minimum pricing, even if licensed premises take steps to counterbalance the effect of the provision on their business. The equivalent amount raised would then be clawed back through a special order in the legislation.
It was estimated retailers could make an extra £103 million each year through minimum pricing. The total is based on the indicative unit price of 45p per unit, according to research by Sheffield University. The Scottish Government has not yet confirmed what the unit price will be.
The SNP-dominated committee voted against the proposal. MSPs have already banned discount deals such as two-for-one on bottles of wine, restricted “irresponsible” drinks promotions and advertising around premises, and set a requirement for age verification.
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Article source: http://www.fifetoday.co.uk/news/scottish-headlines/alcohol-law-can-be-ditched-later-1-2267047