A leading academic on the alcohol industry and the chief executive of a brewery have backed the Scottish government’s plans to introduce minimum pricing.
Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia director Professor Tim Stockwell said there is clear evidence that minimum pricing in Canada has significantly reduced alcohol consumption.
Rooney Anand, chief executive of brewer Greene King, which runs more than 2,000 pubs, restaurants and hotels in the UK, believes minimum pricing would “go to the very heart” of the problems associated with excessive drinking.
Minimum unit pricing is one of the SNP’s flagship policies but it failed to win over the opposition when the legislation was introduced by the minority administration at Holyrood last year.
The majority SNP government said it is committed to bringing back an Alcohol Minimum Pricing Bill within the next month.
Professor Stockwell said: “There is overwhelming evidence that cheap alcohol is linked to high levels of hazardous use and related harms.
“The Scottish parliament should be applauded if they approve the bill to introduce a minimum price on alcoholic drinks.”
Mr Anand said: “We have consistently argued that the solution must be proportionate to the problem and should not penalise the majority of responsible drinkers.
“That is why we believe a minimum price for alcohol would go to the very heart of the problem.”
Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon welcomed their backing.
She said: “The support in favour of minimum pricing is overwhelming, particularly among health professionals who recognise the harm that alcohol is doing to our communities and the benefit minimum pricing will bring, saving lives and reducing crime.”
The support comes after UK public health minister Anne Milton told Westminster’s science and technology committee earlier this week that minimum pricing legislation is likely to contravene European free trade legislation.
She said: “I know Scotland is thinking about introducing it, and they will be challenged, and that will clarify the law. But our advice is that it is illegal.
A spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association said: “Alcohol-related deaths in Scotland in 2010 show a fall of 15 per cent since the peak in 2006 and were at the second lowest level in the last decade.
“It is disappointing the Scottish government continues to ignore the improving trend of less hospital admissions and less alcohol-related deaths.”
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Having support from the business community will help ensure the new laws are implemented effectively.
“Cutting alcohol abuse is essential if we are to help people get on in the world. Too many Scots don’t achieve all they can because they drink too much. Minimum pricing will help with this effort.”
Speaking on BBC Scotland’s Politics Show today, Ms Sturgeon said the government would take account of up-to-date evidence before setting the minimum price.
The previous legislation, which failed to proceed through parliament, set the price at 45p per unit.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I don’t think we can assume anything. We need to make sure that we are taking account all of the available evidence and that the evidence is up-to-date.
“It is important that we get this right.”
Ms Sturgeon said minimum pricing was part of a package of measures which would tackle “the relationship between consumption and price”.