17 May 2012

Scottish Methodist Church welcomes alcohol pricing move

This week, Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Health Secretary, made the announcement that she plans to start to tackle the alcoholism and binge drinking endemic in parts Scotland by introducing a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol. This is even higher and more wide-ranging than the 45p previously indicated.

Unveiling this radical health policy proposed by the Scottish National party government in Scotland, she said: "Cheap alcohol comes at a price and now is the time to tackle the toll that Scotland's unhealthy relationship with alcohol is taking on our society. Too many Scots are drinking themselves to death."

The Methodist Church in Scotland, along with many organizations including churches, the health service and police, have for long advocated minimum pricing as one element in their various campaigns to tackle many people's unhealthy relationship with alcohol. The Methodist Church has welcomed the lead the Scottish Government is taking in tackling over consumption of alcohol.

"Not only does minimum pricing make alcohol -especially the damaging low-priced own brand spirits and strong ciders - less affordable it send a clear message that the Scottish Government takes the issue seriously," said Dr William Reid, Connexional Liaison Officer for the Methodist Church in Scotland. "It also builds on their earlier measures to tackle the promotion of over-consumption of low priced alcohol."

This is the first time that minimum pricing has been tried in the European Union, and the policy is expected to be passed overwhelmingly by the Scottish parliament as the Tories and Liberal Democrats are now behind the proposal after changing their position earlier this year. However, the Labour Party are less supportive questioning the effectiveness of minimum pricing and arguing that, if used, it should be raised through duty across the UK.

Labour MSP Dr Richard Simpson has put forward a consultation on a bill on a wider range of proposals to tackle issues around alcohol, including measures to educate and promote public health and reduce alcohol-related offending through further changes to licensing laws. For example, restrictions on the retailing and advertising of alcoholic drinks, obligations on Scottish Ministers to issue guidance and report, and also directing offenders towards treatment or restricting their access to alcohol.

"Hopefully all parties will come to see these measures are complementary and not in competition with each other and all parties will get behind them all," added Dr Reid.

"While the Scottish Parliament is likely to continue to take a lead on these issues many in the Methodist Church pray that similar measures will also soon be adopted across the UK." 

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