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Thursday, 11 November 2010

A Holyrood day that will live in infamy

Or as Kenneth Williams once said “Infamy, infamy! – they’ve got it in for me!”

Not quite Pearl Harbour, but the rejection of minimum pricing for alcohol by the Holyrood opposition parties is truly shameful. Holyrood's health committee backed a Tory amendment to strike from the Alcohol Bill plans for a minimum price per unit of alcohol of 45p.

Brian Taylor, the BBC’s highly respected political correspondent expressed the view that the decision would probably not influence voting at the Holyrood elections in May 2011. I’m not so sure …

Every time a health professional finds themselves deflected from vital professional care duties by violent drunks, abusive and shouting in A&E, they will remember who opposed the measure, in spite of the support of the BMA and the almost universal support of health professionals and doctors.

I say almost universal support - I exclude, of course, Doctor Richard Simpson, Labour’s health spokesperson in the Scottish Parliament, a medical doctor and former GP, who knows better than his professional body, the BMA, knows better than his church, the Church of Scotland, knows better than the police, better than most health professionals and addiction counsellors – in fact, knows better than almost every professional voice in the Scottish Nation.

Every time a police officer deals with rioting, drunk teenagers in a town centre, they will remember who opposed this measure – Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

Every time a minister of religion finds that his or her church has had its environs vandalised, and picks up a litter of empty cans of cheap lager and bottle of cider in the churchyard, they will remember who opposed this eminently sensible provision – Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

Every time a couple of retired, law-abiding citizens look outside their window late on a Friday or Saturday night because a violent disturbance is taking place in the normally quiet street, they will remember who opposed a measure that might have reduced such incidents – Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

Every time a drunk teenager or young adult crashes a car while under the influence of cheap supermarket alcohol, killing their passenger and the occupants of the vehicle they collided with, the families of the victims will remember who opposed provisions to limit the consumption of cheap booze – Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

As young mothers with young children pick their way in disgust through the broken bottle, empty beer cans, cider bottles and vomit in their local park, they will remember who opposed the sensible, moderate measure that would have limited this revolting pollution of our public places – Labour, the Tories and the LibDems.

And perhaps they will then remember Nicola Sturgeon, the health minister who championed minimum pricing for alcohol, the justice minister who supported it and the First Minister and the party – the SNP – that tried to do something real, for the first time, about the plague that afflicts our Scottish Nation.

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