MINIMUM pricing looks set to top the SNP’s legislative agenda if it earns the right to form the next Scottish Government on May 5.
The party, which topped the polls as SLTN went to press, has pledged to make another attempt to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol in Scotland, stating in its manifesto that such a Bill would be a “priority” in its first legislative programme if re-elected.
The SNP said it would “seek to build a coalition of support” for the measure in parliament.
The controversial proposal failed to secure the backing of opposition parties during the last parliament, with Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories blocking the measure at all three stages of the Alcohol Bill’s progress.
Earlier this month the parties again clashed over the controversial issue on BBC’s Politics Show, with Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie and the Lib Dems’ Tavish Scott speaking out against the proposal and Labour’s Iain Gray questioning the legality of minimum pricing.
The Scottish Green Party is, however, supportive of a minimum price for alcohol, saying in its Scottish election manifesto that such a proposal “must go beyond the UK government’s ‘duty plus VAT’ approach”.
Minimum pricing has also divided Scotland’s licensed trade and drinks industry, with the Scottish Licensed Trade Association a long-time supporter and the Scottish Beer and Pub Association and some drinks producers opposed to it.
SBPA boss Patrick Browne said a revived minimum pricing proposal is unlikely to gain support in the next parliament.
“The reasons why the Scottish Parliament rejected minimum pricing were because it was unproven, untested and very likely illegal,” he said.
“The situation will not change even if the political make up of the next Scottish Parliament changes and there are a few more SNP MSPs. It’s time for politicians to give the licensed trade a break in Scotland and let us get on with complying with the licensing laws, which politicians have already changed on no fewer than three occasions in 18 months.”
However, speaking on Newsnight last week, Alex Salmond said he is committed to trying to legislate for a minimum price for alcohol if the SNP gets a refreshed mandate in the Scottish elections. Describing minimum pricing as a “vital social measure”, he said it is needed to tackle alcohol misuse “head on” in Scotland.