Scotland politics

MSPs approve drink pricing sunset clause

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Media captionFrom Democracy Live: Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon tells the committee a "sunset clause" is perfectly reasonable

New laws to bring in minimum drink pricing in Scotland will be ditched after six years if they fail to work.

The Scottish government agreed to a "sunset clause" in the planned legislation, under a deal to win Conservative support.

The move came as the proposal for a minimum price per unit of alcohol passed its latest parliamentary hurdle.

All the main parties, with the exception of Labour, now support the introduction of the measure.

The majority Scottish government has enough SNP votes to pass minimum pricing, but said it wanted to win over the widest possible support for a move which it argues is needed to tackle Scotland's historically damaging relationship with alcohol.

Speaking at Holyrood's health committee, which was considering the latest changes to the Alcohol Minimum Pricing Bill , Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, said: "The sunset clause is a response to concerns from some members that minimum testing hasn't been tried elsewhere.

"I think that is a perfectly reasonable and legitimate position to take."

Tory health spokesman, Jackson Carlaw, who put forward the suggestion, said: "We remain sceptical about minimum pricing, but, by securing this exit clause, it means the project can be properly rolled out and evaluated at a later stage.

"If it is found not to be working, that means we can drop it without being stuck with measures that are unpopular and unworkable."

'Take action'

A Labour move to strike out any windfall profits made by retailers after a floor price for alcohol is set was voted down by the SNP-dominated committee.

Labour health spokesman Dr Richard Simpson argued said the government should estimate what profits were made through minimum pricing, to be clawed back later.

He said: "To fail to take action to recoup this much more substantially than has been proposed up until now, I think is a failure which the public will not fully understand."

Minimum pricing is making its second passage through parliament after defeat in 2010, when the SNP was in a minority administration.

The bill still faces a final vote in parliament before being passed.

Scottish ministers have yet to say what the minimum price should be set at, this time round.

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