All parties should move beyond partisan politics and get behind the Scottish government's minimum pricing initiative aimed at fighting alcohol consumption, an SNP MP has said.
The SNP's goal of imposing a minimum price per unit of alcohol is gaining support amongst politicians and medical professionals.
SNP MP for Glasgow East, John Mason said: “The 3,000 deaths, 42,000 hospital stays, and 110,000 GP visits linked to alcohol annually are causing misery for families and communities, burdening our public services and sapping Scotland's economic potential.
“Minimum pricing of alcohol is a workable and evidence based approach to tackling this huge problem. Just as the smoking ban did, this issue must unite the Scottish Parliament—not divide it. Scotland’s public health must be above opposition for opposition’s sake.”
His comments come as research recently published by Sheffield University indicates that a set minimum price for alcohol would reduce consumption by young and heavy drinkers with little effect on responsible drinkers.
The research concluded that setting a minimum price for alcohol would not only curb the ability of problem drinkers to get drunk cheaply, but also reduce the price gap between the off-licensed and on-licensed trade.
Representatives from three NHS areas—Fife, Lanarkshire and Borders—have given their backing to the bill. According to the NHS Confederation and Royal College of Physicians, the mood towards minimum alcohol pricing is changing due to rising public concern.
A spokesperson said: “There is no shortage of research that shows the link with price and people drinking harmful levels of alcohol—there is no debate about that.”
The bill’s proponents claim that a considerable amount of public money could be saved if it is implemented. According to research by the Health Economics Consortium at York University, alcohol abuse could be costing Scotland more than £3.5 billion a year—£900 for every adult in the country.
The House of Commons’ Health Select Committee similarly acknowledged the effect of alcohol on society and said that imposing a minimum price could save thousands of lives a year.
However, Labour are still not supporting the bill, citing the additional burdens on the majority of drinkers who consume alcohol in moderation.
Labour’s shadow Scottish health secretary, Jackie Baillie said: "Scottish Labour considered the SNP’s proposals for minimum unit pricing very carefully, but it has become clear that they are untried, untested and possibly incompetent.
“I was also dismayed that the first minister broke his promise to share the substance of the Scottish government's legal advice. I am inviting the Scottish government to put party politics to one side.
"They should accept that minimum pricing will not now happen and engage in the debate about alternatives in order that we can build a genuine consensus across the chamber."