24 May 2012

SNP MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, John Mason, tonight (Thursday) welcomed the vote by the Scottish Parliament to enact a minimum price for alcohol.

Mr Mason said that it was high time the sale of ultra-cheap forms of alcohol, priced with young people especially in mind, was curtailed in Scotland’s shops. The bill to ban the sale of alcohol at under 50p a unit (a unit being roughly equivalent to a shot of spirits, a small glass of wine, or half a pint of beer) passed at Holyrood by 86 votes to 1. The Labour Party, once again, abstained.

Commenting from Parliament after the vote, John Mason MSP said:

“The first constituent into my office last Monday morning was complaining about alcohol. Her weekend had been totally ruined by people drinking in her close and urinating in full view of her kids. And only this morning an Accident and Emergency staff member was telling me on the train of the huge numbers of drink related admissions they receive. This behaviour is not acceptable and Scotland’s relationship with the bottle has to change.

“With the new legislation passed tonight, the minimum price per unit of alcohol is to be 50p. That is a significant step forward.

“Let’s not forget where we’ve come from in this debate, though. When minimum pricing was first mooted by the SNP, all of the opposition parties in Holyrood opposed it and voted it down. Now, just a couple of years on, we see the Tories and the Liberal Democrats making a complete u-turn and backing the policy. So it is now only the Labour Party that seem isolated in their position of wanting more talk but no action.

“The sad reality is that too many of us are drinking too much. The problem affects people in all walks of life. As alcohol has become relatively cheap, alcohol-related hospital admissions have quadrupled, and it is shocking that half of our prisoners now say they were drunk when they committed the offence. It is time for this to stop and I hope that this new piece of legislation will be a step forward to tackling this woeful relationship with drink.

“Minimum pricing is not a magic bullet – we need education and lots more as well, but there is widespread support for trying minimum pricing – from the medical profession, police forces, charities and from significant parts of the drinks and licensed trade industry. The question tonight is, if so many of my constituents and Tenents Lager back minimum pricing, why can’t the Labour Party?”