Friday, 20 July 2012
Minimum Pricing Needs To Be Challenged
Yesterday, on the radio, there was discussion about the Scottish Whisky Association's confirmation that they were launching a legal challenge against the Scottish Government's minimum pricing legislation.
The SWA branded the move 'misguided and said it would not reduce the number of problem drinkers'.
A complaint is being made to the European Commission on the basis it is a restriction of trade and there will also be a petition for judicial review to the Court of Session. The SWA is being joined in the Scottish court challenge by the European Spirits Organisation and European wine body Comite Vins. All three trade bodies say the measure breaches the UK's EU treaty obligations.
Since minimum pricing was proposed, I was against the idea for the reasons I've stated previously and I agree with the SWA that the policy would not reduce the number of problems drinkers. What is needed is for current legislation to be used effectively, which would result in excessive drinking and the behaviour it can produce, becoming socially unacceptable.
In May the ISD published alcohol related hospital statistics for 2012. In Scotland in 2010/11 alcohol-related discharges, from a general acute hospital, were 695 per 100,000 of the population. Alcohol dependence was recorded in 69% (2,807) of all alcohol-related discharges from psychiatric hospitals.
Another interesting statistic is that over the five year period 2006/7 to 2010/11 there was a 6% decrease in the rate of alcohol-related discharges. NHS Orkney and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde boards had the highest rate of discharges.
Many commenters on radio suggested the Scottish whisky industry is acting selfishly and only concerned with profits. Of course they are - industries require profits to stay in business. The industry is one of Scotland's top exporters and any challenge needed to come from a 'big hitter'.
The SWA's challenge may delay the Scottish Government's intention to introduce the legislation in April, but surely they realise legal scrutiny is essential. The Scottish Government has no second chamber to question any of their proposals so the next best thing is the courts.
Maybe Holyrood should have another chamber, but that's another post.
(I've placed a poll in the sidebar).