Alcohol (Licensing, Public Health and Criminal Justice) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 4th February 2016.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

I will take an intervention a little later, once I get a bit further into my speech.

Duncan McNeil rightly reminded us that, as a society, our consumption of alcohol is still far too high. The damaging consequences, which may be costing us £2.5 billion to £3 billion, are very significant.

Graeme Pearson drew attention to the fact that Scotland has a much higher level of alcohol-related deaths than in the rest of the UK. It also has a higher level of consumption. As Dr Calderwood said in her excellent annual report, which has just come out, alcohol remains one of the major public health issues that we face.

Jackson Carlaw enunciated the problems of hospital admissions and talked about number of people who get into trouble with alcohol and become involved in the criminal system. Those all have massive costs for the individual, for their families and for our society. It therefore behoves us as a Parliament to maintain the pressure on this subject. That was partly why I introduced my bill. Despite the acknowledgement in 2011 that minimum unit pricing would not be a magic bullet, my feeling at that point was that the Government would rest on its laurels for the next few years until minimum unit pricing was brought in. Apart from the reduction in the drink-driving limit, which I very much welcome, that is exactly what has happened.

I therefore looked for small measures that I could propose. The measures in the bill are not huge measures; they are small, incremental measures that would allow us to advance the situation and to have a good debate on the topic, which is equally important.