The fall-out from the stushie over minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland continued beyond the vote on the bill last week with some viciously eloquent and trenchant opinion pieces.
Joyce McMillan penned the kind of article for last Friday’s Scotsman that makes the burd sigh. When I grow up, please can I write like her? Her piece attacked the political failure of Labour to support minimum pricing. Iain McWhirter continued the theme with his Sunday Herald opinion piece, suggesting as the burd also did, that the electorate may punish Labour fiercely for its blatant politicking on an issue of such importance to our collective public health. To coin a phrase, Labour may think it’s won the battle but may yet find itself defeated in the war.
A key reason for Scottish Labour’s opposition to Scottish only minimum pricing was the contention that this was a UK wide issue and that a better solution would be for the UK Government to create a minimum “floor price” across the nations. This was the key recommendation of their Alcohol Commission’s report.
But Welsh Labour doesn’t seem to agree. If only our Labour could be Welsh too…
The Health Minister in the Welsh Assembly, Edwina Hart AM, in a recent statement called for action on alcohol misuse in Wales, including an increase in duty, minimum pricing and a reduction in the drink driving limit. Indeed, listen to her statement, and many of her arguments chime with those of the SNP Health Secretary in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, not least that there was now “a strong case for a minimum price”. And in a mirror image of her Scottish colleagues, in laying out the arguments for such a move, she also dismissed the case against it. She also suggested that if the UK Government did not act soon, then the Welsh Assembly would call for powers to do so.
So not only is Scottish Labour isolated in Scotland in terms of opinion on this issue, it is also isolated from its colleagues in Wales. The situation simply serves to emphasise the blatant politicking behind Scottish Labour’s stance on alcohol minimum pricing. There are no coherent arguments against the measure, as the Welsh health minister illustrates so deftly and concisely. And it puts greater pressure on Scottish Labour to explain why their view differs so greatly from their Welsh counterparts.