2007 - 2022

Victory Against Cheap Booze


As the battle to overcome Scotland’s drink problem reaches a significant victory – Scottish ministers just won the first round in a lengthy court battle against the whisky industry after a judge ruled their plans to fix a minimum price for alcohol were legal and justified – it’s worth remembering the oppositions role in blocking these measures.

In 2010 when the Unionist parties colluded to block the moves, Tory MSP Mary Scanlon said: “There is simply no political support for the SNP’s blanket minimum pricing. These plans would penalise responsible drinkers, harm the Scotch whisky industry, cost jobs and is probably illegal.” She was wrong on all scores.

Labour’s Jackie Baillie added: “The facts are that the Scottish government has not been able to get a parliamentary majority because they have lost the argument. This policy is effectively a tax on the poor paid directly to the shareholders of the big supermarkets.”

This was just nonsense, and probably the most cynical bit of politics Holyrood’s seen.

Ross Finnie, the Lib Dem health spokesman, said: “We remain unconvinced by the government’s proposals for minimum pricing. It impacts heavily on the low paid, has a marginal effect on hazardous drinkers and gives a windfall to retailers.”

The Liberal Democrat opposition was even worse, because they actually support minimum pricing – it was in their UK election manifesto.

This is a major victory for health campaigners, Nicola Sturgeon who championed the legislation and now Alex Neil. Lord Doherty ruled on Friday that the Scottish parliament was within its powers to introduce Europe’s first minimum pricing law on all alcoholic drinks, because it would protect health.

Alex Neil, the Scottish health secretary, said he believed minimum pricing would help bring in “transformational change” on alcohol abuse.

It’s a regular refrain from the Unionist parties that ‘bread and butter issues’ and issues of social justice have been put on hold because of the constitutional debate, the reality’s different.

The legislation has the support of the Chief Medical Officer, the BMA, the Royal Colleges, the Association of Chief Police Officers, and numerous campaign groups like Alcohol Focus Scotland. Dr Brian Keighley, from the British Medical Association Scotland, said: “Any credible alcohol strategy must have at its heart measures to tackle price and availability. Scotland is awash with cheap alcohol and Scots are paying the price with their health.”

NHS Scotland estimates the impact of excessive alcohol consumption in Scotland costing £3.56 billion each year, or £900 for every adult in Scotland. Not only does alcohol misuse burden our health service and police – it also has a considerable knock-on effect on our economic potential and on the families devastated by death and illness caused by alcohol.

The argument’s been won and now has a good chance of winning the legal battle.

This is about standing up to big business interests in defence of public health. It’s about what sort of Scotland we are creating and and whether we can stand up to corporate capture shaping and dictating social and health policy. It’s still shocking to reflect on the cynicism of those who opposed it for narrow party gain.

Comments (7)

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  1. Peter A Bell says:

    A victory for health campaigners. And, perhaps more significantly, a stinging defeat for the Bain Principle.

    1. bellacaledonia says:


  2. Ray Bell says:

    Before anyone accuses me of being a shill or a drunkard, I have been teetotal for several years now…

    But this is *NOT* the way forward. We have seen already how high tobacco prices have created massive cigarette smuggling, and it’s estimated up to a a third of cigarettes are now counterfeit.

    In Norway, when they tried this kind of thing, alcohol smuggling went through the roof, as did the production of moonshine. People started being admitted into hospital for something not seen in decades – alcohol related blindness.

    This is not the way forward. Alcohol is overpriced already, but doing this just creates a black market for criminals, as we have in the drugs trade.

    If we want rid of drink, we have to ask other difficult questions:
    * Why are pubs about the only social centres in many communities (answer: because communities have broken down, and few people go to church etc)
    * What are we going to do about the massive number of Scots employed in all aspects of the drinks industry?


    We’ve got to provide alternatives. Forcing pubs to LOWER the price of soft drinks would be a start.

  3. Douglas says:


    I support minimum pricing. I think it’s for the best and you’re right to point out the dirty tactics of the establishment to oppose it.

    By the same token, I am for the legalization of drugs and the abolition of the smoking ban in ALL bars – in most bars okay – but not ALL bars.

    I am also embarrassed by the ridiculous spectacle of Scotland’s licensing hours. A Spanish friend recently asked me why he couldn’t order a beer at 12 am on a Sunday, and I had to tell him: cause the Scottish State says so!

    Can we get European about this please? In all senses. There is nothing clever or heroic about getting drunk…

    Finally, the most important thing about: self respect.. Until Scottish children are taught at school of the importance of self respect – indeed that should be the sole aim of any education system – they will fall into self-loathing.

    We should cherish our young people, in the south of Europe they are treated much better than in the north. Minimum pricing is an important part of that, but we need more.

    We need to hear from youth about this…



  4. Ray Bell says:

    A much more imaginative, less Labour party-esque* way of dealing with this issue would be purity/quality control of beer and cider. The Manx, Germans and Swiss have this.

    It would be a boost to real ale and small Scottish breweries, and would get rid of White Lightning and cider which never saw an apple, and cheap and nasty lager.

    *The fact that Labour was coming out with these kinds of statement before the SNP were in power, and it’s been mooted south of the Border, suggests that like the smoking ban this originated with the civil sevice not the SNP.

  5. Douglas says:

    The way to deal with alcohol abuse in Scotland is to teach the young how to master their own bodies and by doing so the world.

    Once you have mastered your own physical well being, then you can do what you want.

    This, the ancients knew….

    The other thing would be for the asslickers who haunts the pages of ALL THE PRESS and beg for goodmanners – which were always an exception – to prove thir point and shut the fuck up. I would rather Scottosh independence were settled by a wqrestling match than the fucking losers in the press who go about what is right and wrong….north european hypocritical shites..

  6. The Giro Whisperer says:

    Not quite sure about that one – over ten years of glorious serenity here says this price rise will make people more desperate.

    The groups mentioned in the post know absolutely nothing about addiction and its embarrassing that the tories are actually quite spot on about this issue.

    It really won’t protect peoples health – it will just raise the chances of someone committing violence to procure alcohol – or switch to meths, hair lacqeur etc etc

    Elsewhere, it’s all very well championing a price rise with a view to reducing consumption – but what if they do ? Or stop altogether ? Where would they be welcome then ?

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