The Scottish Government’s plans to introduce minimum pricing have been dealt a fresh blow after MSPs voted to reject them.
The proposal for minimum pricing was included in the Scottish National Party’s (SNP’s) Alcohol Bill which aims to tackle excessive binge drinking in the nation.
But last week MSPs voted in favour of an amendment to the Bill, tabled by the Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, which called for the minimum pricing plan to be removed from the Bill.
However, despite the defeat, the Scottish Government says it will press ahead with the plans.
Scottish politicians have clashed over the significance of last week’s vote.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Health Secretary, said: “The amendment that was passed has absolutely no effect and it is notable that fewer than half of all MSPs voted for it.”
“The Scottish Government will continue to seek to persuade members to support minimum pricing, which is backed by a huge range of experts”, she continued.
However, opponents of minimum pricing have hailed the vote as a defeat for minimum pricing proposals.
Murdo Fraser, the Scottish Conservative health spokesman, said: “Now its time for the SNP to put its plans on hold and sit down and work with the UK Government and opposition parties on a joint approach which will have widespread political support.”
“Scotland has a huge problem with excessive alcohol consumption and we need targeted measure to tackle that abuse”, he added.
“But this should not lead us to rush into legislation on the SNP’s indiscriminate blanket minimum pricing, which would penalise responsible drinkers”.
During last week’s debate Miss Sturgeon was repeatedly criticised over the Government’s failure to disclose the minimum price which they would impose.
The Alcohol Bill, which will continue to progress through the Scottish Parliament, also proposes restrictions on alcohol promotions, and outlines plans for licensed premises to pay fees to cover the cost of social problems associated with alcohol.
In March eight children’s charities in Scotland backed the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce minimum pricing on alcohol.
The group urged the Government to put “children’s interests at the heart of alcohol policy”.
They also warned that excessive parental drinking has negative affects on children through emotional stress, abuse and neglect.
The NSPCC’s ChildLine service in Scotland submitted a joint statement with seven other organisations: Children 1st; Aberlour; YouthLink Scotland; Barnardo’s Scotland; Action for Children Scotland; Quarriers; and Parenting across Scotland.