RAGING Labour MSP Hugh Henry has aimed a swipe at SNP plans to introduce minimum booze prices, insisting: “They just won’t work.”
The Paisley South man at Holyrood hit back at claims from Nationalist MSP Stewart Maxwell in the Paisley Daily Express that Labour were putting “party-political interests” ahead of the health of the nation.
The row was sparked after Mr Henry and his colleagues refused to back the Government’s bid to introduce a minimum-pricing scheme that would ban pubs, supermarkets and off-licences from flogging alcohol at dirt-cheap prices.
That angered Mr Maxwell and his SNP pals.
“I find it despicable that the Labour party have chosen to put party-political interests ahead of the public health of Scotland,” fumed the MSP.
Mr Maxwell was speaking after the Express revealed new figures which show that Paisley’s booze epidemic is spiralling out of control as scores of Buddies drink themselves into an early grave.
Figures released by the General Registry Office for Scotland show that the town is among Scotland’s worst offenders in the drink league of shame.
But Mr Henry claims there is no way his party could have supported the proposals as they currently stand.
“There are just too many questions still to be answered,” he said. “There are questions about whether this scheme is actually legal, about what would happen if a black market was created and about whether the right drinks were being targeted, like Buckfast.
“We think you’d soon see people getting in a van, travelling across the border to England and on to Carlisle, stocking up with cheaper booze available here in Scotland, and then selling it illegally.
“And once you’ve got people doing that you can bet they won’t be bothered about asking people if they are 18 or not.”
Mr Henry insists Labour are desperate to end Scotland’s booze disgrace but insists that until a workable plan is put forward, their stance will not change.
He said: “The words used by Stewart Maxwell were that we were doing this to gain some sort of party-political advantage.
“But there is no advantage to us in rejecting this plan.
“We have been calling on the government for the last year to sit down with us and the experts and come up with something that will work. But it is the SNP who are now playing party politics.
“They have come up with a plan without talking to anyone about it, said they are right and everyone else is wrong and that they don’t care what we say.
“Alcohol is a scourge on our communities but we must not get into is an argument about it. We don’t disagree that we need some drastic kind of change but we have to get something that is sensible and enforceable. That is why we can’t support the SNP’s plans.
“They would merely cause mayhem.”