Alcohol bill not supported by majority of Health Committee

13.01.2016

The general principles of the Alcohol Bill have not been supported by a majority of MSPs on the Health and Sport Committee. A majority of the Committee is not persuaded that the Bill is an effective and workable package of measures to tackle alcohol misuse.

The Committee has been scrutinising the Alcohol (Licensing, Public Health and Criminal Justice) (Scotland) Bill and have today published their stage one report into the legislation. 

Whilst the Committee recognises the aim of the bill is to promote public health and reduce alcohol related offending, the majority of the Committee believe that the Scottish Government’s forthcoming alcohol strategy offers a more effective route to address these issues.  

A minority of the Committee believe that the Bill would introduce a series of useful additional tools and approaches to support the current alcohol policy regime that would further tackle alcohol misuse in Scotland. 

Convener of the Committee Duncan McNeil MSP said: 

“There is no doubt that Scotland has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and we should not be complacent about how we tackle the detrimental impact this has on people’s health and our wider society.

“This bill contains a wide range of measures – from restrictions on advertising alcohol to introducing drink banning orders. Having looked at all these in detail it was clear there were a wide variety of views expressed about the effectiveness of these proposals, which is reflected in the Committee’s report.  

“As a Committee, the majority of our members, whilst supporting the aims of legislation, couldn’t support the detail of the proposals.” 

Deputy Convener of the Committee Bob Doris MSP said:

“The Scottish Government has shown that they will legislate when needed in order to protect public health. However, we heard during evidence that some of the Bill’s proposals may not require legislation as voluntary schemes could achieve the same outcomes. 

“We ask the Scottish Government to address the merits of all the proposals in the bill as part of their wider strategy on alcohol regardless of the progress of this bill.”

The Bill contains 10 key provisions.  

The Committee holds a difference of views on the following provisions, a majority of the Committee does not support these provisions whilst a minority of the Committee does support them:

  • Minimum pricing for packages containing more than one alcohol product.
  • Alcoholic drinks containing high levels of caffeine.
  • Container marking in off-sales.
  • Community involvement in licensing decisions.
  • Restrictions on alcohol advertising.
  • Alcohol education policy statements.
  • Drinking banning orders.
  • Alcohol awareness training as an alternative to a fixed penalty fine.

The whole Committee does not support the provision in the Bill on age discrimination in off-sales. 

The whole Committee welcomes and supports the Member in charge of the Bill’s position that he would accept the removal of the provision on the courts notifying an offender’s GP where alcohol was a factor in their offending behaviour. 

The Committee’s report also concluded that the Scottish Government give further consideration to the need to consolidate alcohol licensing legislation as part of its review of its alcohol strategy. The Committee notes the comments from witnesses regarding challenges presented by the current volume of legislation and regulation governing alcohol licensing. 

Background 

The Alcohol bill is a members bill introduced by Dr Richard Simpson MSP. All MSPs will now debate the general principles of the Bill. The Parliament will decide whether to agree to the general principles of the Bill.

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