A U-turn by the Conservatives saw the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Bill passed at stage one by 86 votes to nil, with 32 Labour abstentions.
The Tories agreed to back the Bill with the proviso that a so-called ‘sunset clause’, which would allow Parliament to review the legislation after five years, was introduced. In a second caveat, the party requested that health secretary Nicola Sturgeon makes a voluntary notification of the proposals to the European Commission to ascertain their compliance with EU law before parliament considers the Bill at stage three.
Labour, meanwhile, unveiled a raft of alternative proposals to tackle alcohol misuse, including proposing a limit on the amount of caffeine in pre-mixed alcoholic drinks and closing what it says is a loophole in legislation relating to ‘bulk buy’ deals. It has launched a consultation on its proposed Alcohol (Public Health and Criminal Justice) Bill, which will be steered through parliament by shadow public health minister Richard Simpson.
Sturgeon said she intends to announce the minimum unit price before the stage three vote. Stage two consideration of the minimum pricing Bill is expected to take place on Tuesday April 24.