A Holyrood committee remains split over whether a minimum unit price on alcohol will reduce consumption or the social harm related to misuse, a report has concluded.
Scotland’s Health and Sport Committee’s stage one report on the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Bill has recommended that it proceeds to stage two.
However, it highlighted a “difference of opinion” amongst members about its potential efficacy.
The report stated: “A majority of the Committee are persuaded by the Scottish government’s assertion that the bill will help reduce alcohol consumption in Scotland, because they consider the evidence received to be both overwhelming and compelling, in particular reducing the consumption of alcohol by harmful drinkers, and the impact of alcohol misuse on public health, crime, public services, productivity and the economy as a whole.”
However, it added: “A minority of members are sceptical, but hope that the Scottish government’s assertion that the bill will help reduce alcohol consumption and lessen the impact of alcohol misuse on public health may come to pass.
“Some members remain unconvinced by the efficacy of minimum pricing and believe a universal approach may penalise moderate drinkers and also those in lower income groups.
“They question whether the bill’s policy aspirations of reducing the harm and social cost associated with alcohol misuse can be achieved to the extent envisaged.
“They note amongst other additional concerns that the response of the market (retailers, on and off trade and produces) to the substantial windfall from profits from a minimum unit price has not been assessed and may undermine the policy intentions of the bill.
“They also draw attention to the lingering issue of the bill’s legality in a European context and are concerned that any protracted legal proceedings could detract attention or divert resources from wider efforts to challenge our drink culture.”
The report noted that the Scottish government did not include the minimum price at which a unit of alcohol cannot be sold below on the face of the bill.