Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland drinks industry in call to follow Scots on minimum booze price

By John Mulgrew

Drinks makers and the pub sector here are calling for Northern Ireland to follow Scotland's lead and bring in a minimum price for alcohol.

The UK's highest court has rejected a challenge against plans to use minimum pricing for alcohol to improve public health in Scotland.

Seven Supreme Court justices in London dismissed an appeal yesterday by the Scotch Whisky Association.

There are now renewed calls from the pub and drinks for a similar system here.

Tom McCusker, managing director of C&C Group Ireland, which produces cider, beer, wine and soft drinks, said it had been a "strong and vocal supporter of minimum unit pricing, as progressive legislation that will promote and encourage a responsible relationship with alcohol in society".

"We welcome the landmark decision of the UK Supreme Court to uphold its introduction in Scotland," he added.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said a new Executive "or in its absence the UK Government" should follow suit.

"The ruling by the UK Supreme Court clears the way for Scotland to introduce price controls on cheap alcohol to tackle problem drinking," he said.

"With both the Republic of Ireland and Wales also planning to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol, the days of alcohol being sold at pocket-money prices are hopefully coming to an end.

"However, despite the fact that there has been widespread support across all the Northern Ireland political parties in the past, the lack of a devolved government and the fact that Westminster is unlikely to introduce a minimum unit price, means it could be some time before Northern Ireland follows suit.

"It is important to say, however, that minimum pricing will not be the panacea for all harmful drinking practices, nor will it drive more people back to the pub.

"Where we will see some difference, however, is the move away from trying to tackle our alcohol problems simply through higher taxation and regulatory obligations, as these measures have never proven to be effective."

Dr Paul Darragh, chair of the BMA's Northern Ireland's public health forum, said: "I wholeheartedly welcome this ruling.

"BMA Northern Ireland has been lobbying for the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol here for several years."

Belfast Telegraph

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