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Tennent’s backs minimum pricing
Scotland's largest brewer, Tennent's, has backed the Scottish Government's proposal for minimum pricing for alcohol.
In a statement, Mike Lees, Managing Director of Tennent Caledonian Breweries, said he believed that minimum pricing was "part of the solution" to Scotland's £3.56 billion-per-year problem with alcohol misuse.
The support from Tennent's adds to a 'growing consensus' of opinion in favour of minimum pricing, including the four Chief Medical Officers of the UK, the BMA, the Royal Colleges, all 17 directors of public health in NHS Scotland, the House of Commons Health Select Committee, the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association.
Mike Lees said:
"As Scotland's leading brewer, Tennent's recognises its duty to act responsibly and has always encouraged people to drink responsibly. Tennent's has a strong commitment to Scotland and welcomes sensible moves to ensure alcohol is enjoyed appropriately.
"We recognise that there is an issue of overconsumption of alcohol among a minority of consumers, and acknowledge that the Scottish Government is working to try to combat this problem. In particular, there is an issue with a small group of consumers who purchase cheap alcohol in bulk, drink excessively at home and then go out into pubs and clubs and get into difficulties.
"We believe that, if implemented appropriately, minimum pricing could be part of the solution by increasing the price of alcohol, particularly of high strength products and is one way of addressing the alcohol abuse issues that we face in Scotland. Consequently, Tennent's supports the proposals to introduce minimum pricing so long as the measures proposed are fair, proportionate and part of an overall programme to reduce the abuse of alcohol .
"We believe passionately that responsible adults have the right to enjoy drinking sensibly and we believe that minimum pricing, when combined with other measures, may contribute to an improvement in society."
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said:
"Tennent's backing for minimum pricing shows that responsible producers have nothing to fear from the proposal.
"That's because they understand that minimum pricing will not raise the price of all drinks - only the dirt-cheap supermarket white ciders, lagers and low-grade spirits sought out by problem drinkers.
"Currently there is nothing to stop supermarkets selling alcohol for less than bottled water and that's why it's possible to exceed the weekly consumption guidelines for men for less than £3.50.
"Minimum pricing would change that and, while not the whole answer, more and more people recognise it is a step in the right direction, as part of our wider package of measures to tackle alcohol misuse in Scotland.
"I believe the Scottish people are getting increasingly fed up with the problem drinking that's burdening our health service, police, social services and economy to the tune of £3.56 billion per year.
"A broad consensus now supports the package of measures in the Scottish Government's radical Alcohol Bill and I call on all MSPs to listen to these voices, hear the evidence and do the right thing for the good of Scotland's health."
Recent alcohol industry sales figures suggest Scots are drinking an average 25 per cent more alcohol per head of population that the English and Welsh. The 50.5 million litres of pure alcohol sold in 2009 were enough for every person over the age of 18 to exceed the weekly alcohol guidelines for men, every week of the year.
Independent research by health economists at the University of York has put the cost of alcohol misuse across Scotland's NHS, police, social services, the economy and families at between £2.48 billion and £4.64 billion - with a mid-point estimate of £3.56 billion.
The House of Commons' Health Select Committee's report on alcohol, published on January 8, has called on the UK Government to introduce minimum pricing and new licensing rules modelled on ones already introduced in Scotland.
The Labour-led committee's report follows an investigation which featured evidence sessions from contributors ranging from health experts to representatives from the alcohol industry and supermarkets.
Research from the University of Sheffield has shown that minimum pricing for alcohol could reduce alcohol consumption, particularly among problem drinkers and result in fewer deaths, illnesses and crimes linked to alcohol misuse.
A survey of supermarket alcohol prices shows that minimum pricing would target cheap, high strength white ciders, lagers and low-grade spirits, while leaving responsibly-priced products untouched.
The Scottish Government introduced its Alcohol Bill to Parliament in November. The Bill's key proposals include:
- A minimum price per unit of alcohol to raise the cost of the cheapest ciders, lagers and low-grade spirits favoured by problem drinkers
- A ban on irresponsible off-sales promotions which encourage excessive drinking
- A duty on licensing boards to consider raising the off-sales purchase age to 21 where appropriate to develop local solutions to local problems
- A power to introduce a 'social responsibility fee' on some retailers to offset the costs of dealing with drink problems
The Scottish Government has committed a record investment of almost £120 million over the period of the spending review (2008-11) - the single largest increase ever for tackling alcohol misuse in Scotland, and almost a tripling in resources.