CAMRA leaders to discuss minimum alcohol pricing

The leaders of a traditional pub campaign group are set to discuss a call for it to support the “urgent introduction” of minimum alcohol pricing in England later this month.

The move comes in response to a motion passed at the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) annual conference in Dundee earlier this month, which saw the arrival of a new chairman Nik Antona.

Alcohol has retailed for more than 50p ($0.66) per 10ml UK unit in Scotland since May last year. Supporters hope it will curtail the drinking of very heavy drinkers who gravitate towards cheap sources of alcohol. In England the price per unit starts at 16p.

The price of beer sold in pubs is unaffected by minimum pricing, typically being more than three times the 50p minimum price. Supporters within CAMRA argue minimum pricing may help counter the decline of British pubs by narrowing the price gap with supermarkets.

Others do not see it this way, saying on social media the pro-minimum price motion panders to “anti-alcohol” forces, threatening to cancel their CAMRA memberships. Some, however, wonder if an appreciation of untainted liberal economics is a necessary part of appreciating traditional beer.

The tension is not new. CAMRA’s former chairman Colin Valentine, who stood down last year, is said to have spoken in support of the minimum price motion. Yet, under Valentine’s chairmanship, CAMRA also echoed alcohol industry opposition to it.

Help may be at hand. An initial evaluation of the short-term economic impact of minimum pricing in Scotland is due later this year. And some insight into its effectiveness in achieving its goal of reducing harmful drinking is expected next year. ■