Thursday, 26 November 2009




Iain Gray has today been accused of “political cowardice” by SNP MSP Dr Ian McKee who said Gray is not fit to be Labour leader after he failed to address the dominant political issue of minimum pricing for alcohol at First Minister’s Questions.

Despite turning against the SNP Government’s proposal for minimum pricing earlier today Gray ducked the issue at First Minister’s Questions as divisions in his party continue over Labour’s rejection of the policy.

Speaking after FMQs Dr McKee said:

“Iain Gray has disgraced himself, the Parliament and the Labour party with his actions.

“Putting party politics before public health is crass and opportunistic.

“Iain Gray is rightly facing the condemnation of Scotland’s health professionals and members of the licensed trade as well as those within his party for his political cowardice. If he cannot have the courage of his convictions at First Minister’s Questions then he is not fit to be Labour leader.

“If Gray had guts he would have raised minimum pricing – instead he hid from Parliament, from his party and from the public.

“His health spokeswoman claims she has consulted on this decision – but she has clearly ignored all those who deal with the problems alcohol causes.

“As Labour’s divisions over their leaderships rash decision are exposed it is Iain Gray’s future that is on the rocks.”

The following comments have been issued today in reaction to Labour’s decision

Jack Law, chief exec, Alcohol Focus Scotland:
‘Alcohol Focus Scotland is profoundly disappointed at the position Labour has taken in advance of evidence to the Health Committee. This flies in the face of all the advice and evidence from Public Health and other experts who have to deal with alcohol related harm. Establishing a minimum price for alcohol is the most important element of the range of proposals the Government is proposing in the Alcohol Bill, and its rejection by Labour is a major blow which could set back our attempts to make a positive change to Scotland’s drinking culture.’

Commenting on the Labour Party’s decision not to support the Bill, Dr Keighley, BMA Scotland added:

“I am especially disappointed that the Labour group has decided not to support minimum pricing - a decision that will blot their excellent track record on public health policy. It is a premature step by the party in an attempt to derail this legislation before it’s even begun. I am confounded by their announcement and I would urge them to consider, with an open mind, the evidence that will be presented at stage 1 of the Bill’s process. By listening to the overwhelming evidence in support of minimum pricing, I believe that the Party’s concerns could easily be resolved.

Prof Sir Neil Douglas, President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said,
“We are deeply disappointed that opposition politicians have chosen the day of publication of the Alcohol Bill to signal their intent to vote down this vital legislation. The death toll and ill-health in Scotland attributable to excessive alcohol consumption has reached an appalling level, with 3 Scots dying every day as a result of such abuse. It is even more disappointing that opposition politicians have elected to determine their position before the Health and Sport Committee has had an opportunity to receive and review the evidence on this area as part of the democratic process. We would urge politicians of all parties to put the interests of the people of Scotland ahead of party politics and to recognise that the time has come for action and not more words. Further delay may only result in the preventable loss of Scots’ lives”

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