There’s plenty going on this week which demonstrates the Coalition government should pay more heed to where Scotland is and what she thinks. Nonetheless, David Cameron’s proposal on minimum pricing for alcohol is undoubtedly inspired by Scotland’s lead.

Maybe you missed it in a boozy blur between Christmas and New Year, but David Cameron has instructed civil servants to pull together plans for minimum pricing for alcohol sales in England. According to The Daily Telegraph, this could either be the Scottish model, banning the sale of alcohol priced below 45 pence per unit, or as taxes based upon the number of units in a drink.

Whitehall’s strategy on alcohol will be published in February. The Scottish Government’s Bill is at Stage 1 at Holyrood, after being introduced by Nicola Sturgeon back in October. Labour at Holyrood don’t believe minimum unit pricing is the answer to Scotland’s alcohol issues as “it will not target problem drinks”. But might they be compelled from February onwards to take an opposing view to Labour at Westminster?

Despite introducing 24 hour drinking in England while in government, in early 2010 Andy Burnham, the then Health Secretary, indicated that Brown’s government were at least open to considering the introduction of minimum alcohol prices, saying:

“We need to balance the rights of people who drink responsibly with those who buy ludicrously cheap booze and go out and harm themselves and others… There is no shortage of research that shows the link with price and people drinking harmful levels of alcohol – there is no debate about that.”

Back then, Andrew Lansley, now Health Secretary, dismissed calls to set a minimum price for alcohol from both the Chief Medical Officer and the Commons Health Select Committee. Although the Coalition has banned supermarkets selling booze as a loss leader, and introduced higher duty on super-strength beer and cider, Lansley reportedly favours a voluntary approach on the part of the seller, indicating that Cameron has over-ruled him with the minimum price move.

A split between government ministers is always fun for oppositions. But with his previous comments, as well as many Labour-controlled councils within Greater Manchester and Merseyside considering the introduction of bylaws to set minimum alcohol prices, it won’t be so easy for Burnham to dismiss Cameron’s move for minimum pricing if it is included in proposals come February.

Of course, Burnham didn’t do anything when in power about minimum pricing, and his somewhat cool comment above could mean Labour will oppose any move by the coalition to introduce minimum pricing. But Burnham’s performance during Labour’s leadership elections in 2010 sees him regarded as a considerate centrist, while his recent campaign for the full disclosure of Hillsborough papers means he’s unafraid to grab emotive, powerful public issues. I would bet he won’t oppose minimum pricing just because Cameron wants it.

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour is gone too far on record opposing a minimum unit price to adapt to it developing from a Scottish to a UK debate. If Burnham backs Cameron’s measures, Jackie Baillie has to stand alone.

Labour in Holyrood’s not wrong in saying minimum pricing isn’t enough on its own to tackle Scotland’s demon drink problem. But I think they are mistaken to not back minimum pricing.

To survive Scottish Labour needs to develop an identity, both political and on policy, to distinguish itself from the Westminster party. But trying to do that on legislation that will save people’s lives should not be the place to start.