Tennent’s backs minimum alcohol pricing
Tennent’s, Scotland’s largest brewer, has heaped pressure on Holyrood’s opposition parties by backing the SNP’s plans for minimum alcohol pricing.
Mike Lees, the company’s managing director, said the proposals were “a sensible move” and “part of the solution” to the country’s chronic binge drinking problem.
But his surprise intervention failed to sway the other three main parties, with Labour arguing that Tennent Caledonian would benefit financially if minimum pricing is introduced.
They have vowed to combine to vote down the measure when it comes before MSPs shortly, despite health chiefs arguing it would save hundreds of lives.
Tennent’s has become the first major drinks producer to offer its support, with the company’s rivals arguing that minimum pricing will unfairly penalise the majority of Scots drinkers.
Mr Lees said: “As Scotland s leading brewer, Tennent’s recognises its duty to act responsibly and has always encouraged people to drink responsibly.
“We believe that, if implemented appropriately, minimum pricing could be part of the solution by increasing the price of alcohol, particularly of high strength products and is one way of addressing the alcohol abuse issues that we face in Scotland.”
He said the firm recognises there are problems with a minority of Scots, who purchase alcohol in bulk for consumption at home, before going out and causing problems at pubs and clubs.
Combined with other measures, he argued minimum pricing could improve the binge drinking epidemic and Scottish society.
Recent research published by the Scottish Executive has estimated the cost of alcohol abuse, including the criminal justice system and NHS, is about £3.5 billion per year.
The SNP’s plans for a minimum price, mooted at 40p per unit, would see the cost of a four-pack of Tennent’s Superlager in Asda increase from £5.28 to £6.33.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish health minister, said: “Tennent’s backing for minimum pricing shows that responsible producers have nothing to fear from the proposal.
“That’s because they understand that minimum pricing will not raise the price of all drinks only the dirt-cheap supermarket white ciders, lagers and low-grade spirits sought out by problem drinkers.”
She said there was now a “broad consensus” in favour of the plan, adding: “I call on all MSPs to listen to these voices, hear the evidence and do the right thing for the good of Scotland s health.”
But a Scottish Labour spokesman said: “If you are going to come forward with schemes that put up the price of alcohol, the money that’s raised should go into alcohol treatment. It shouldn’t go to the shareholders of Asda, Tesco and, indeed, Tennent’s.”
Labour has set up its own commission to consider alternatives to minimum pricing, but the proposal is already backed by the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers, the British Medical Association and the Royal Colleges.
All 17 directors of public health in NHS Scotland, the cross-party House of Commons Health Select Committee and senior police officers have also called for its introduction.