Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Labour and alcohol

Most interested was I in the 'independent' commission on alcohol that Labour set up. It had six members: Sam Galbraith, Labour party member and former Labour Minister; Stephen Doran, Labour party member and Glasgow Labour councillor; Brian Fearon, Labour party member, former Labour councillor and Labour's candidate in Ochil in 2007; Sally Brown (chair), former Labour party member and friend and neighbour of Labour MSP and former Labour Minister Richard Simpson; Graeme Pearson, former policeman and now Labour's adviser on crime (providing the skeleton for Richard Baker's sterling work); and Jeremy Blood who spent 21 years working for Scottish & Newcastle and is now a director of Mitchell's & Butler's. Impartiality - ye canna whack it!

Anyway, this commission, fascinatingly, came up with proposals that are already Labour party policy - remarkable the prescience that Labour politicians have - and scorned Minimum Unit Pricing (the policy of the SNP Government). This commission argued that "MUP is not in place anywhere in world and the evidence presented for its effectiveness relies on estimates of impact" just before it refers to the Canadian Social Reference Pricing which it suggests differs markedly from MUR. Perhaps they should have done the tiniest bit of research, something like reading the submission from the Brewers Association of Canada to the Alcohol Bill which describes SRP and shows it to be the same as MUP. In addition, Russia introduced minimum pricing on vodka earlier this year to curb consumption and has already had minimum pricing for other spirits for a couple of years, Moldova introduced it on strong alcohol products, Ukraine and China both have minimum pricing (Ukraine's politicians were arguing about how much it should rise by in April last year), and Australia was considering it at the beginning of last year (just me and my research assistant Mr Google finding MUP in action)

If you want something more stunning than that, though, look at the recommendations - this commission rejects the idea of Scotland bringing in a minimum price for alcohol based on the strength of the product and suggests, instead, that the Scottish Government asks London to introduce a floor price below which alcohol may not be sold and harmonise prices so that the cost of the drink will be based on the strength of the product. So that would be an argument that we shouldn't do it but should ask London to - the argument being that you shouldn't have a different system in Scotland. The irony of Labour being last to understand devolution is almost painful. Also interesting in that section, though, is that Labour's minimum price is based on adding together the cost of production, duty and VAT but there is an aside that "The Commission is unconvinced by those who argue that it is not possible to arrive at a notional basic cost of production." This is the only time in the report that it is mentioned that someone has suggested that it might be impossible to isolate notional basic costs (for instance, if one site is producing 20 different products on 7 different lines, how do you allocate production costs to each unit of each product?)

Labour once again ignoring the duty of responsible politicians and, instead, messing around looking for a tiny political pointscoring opportunity - a party that really can't be trusted. It's time to properly address Scotland's unhealthy relationship with alcohol and Labour just isn't interested.

Let's leave the last word to some international alcohol experts who have written to MSPs encouraging them to support the SNP Government proposals.


voiceofourown said...

Typically laser-like dissection. Labour's (and its unionist cohorts) objections to minimum pricing are, and always were, knee-jerk oppositionalism. That and a fear that the Scottish Govt would be seen to be leading the way in such an important area.
They are quite happy to sacrifice the health and wellbeing of the Scottish people for the sake of political advantage.
I'm disgusted but, with the support of the media, they will prevail.

Anonymous said...

It's also time to properly address Scotland's unhealthy relationship with the Labour Party.

takhisis1 said...

what has been funny how in the reporting of this with the exception of the Independant, how the usual members of the press have gone out of their way of saying this is not minimum pricing even when it is.

I think Shakesphere said it best,
"A rose by any other name is just as sweet"