Scotland pursues 45p-per-unit minimum price

02 September, 2010

Scotland’s ruling National Party wants to set a minimum price for alcohol at 45p-per-unit, the government announced today.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the move would save lives and money. It will be tabled as an amendment to the Alcohol (Scotland) Bill, which is about to start the second stage of the parliamentary process.

The Scottish Labour Party has come out against minimum pricing and suggested a ban on below-cost sales as an alternative.

Sturgeon predicted that the first year of minimum pricing would bring 50 fewer deaths from alcohol-related harm, 1,200 fewer hospital admissions, a £5.5 million cut in healthcare costs and 22,900 fewer days’ absence from work.

She said: “For too long, too many Scots have been drinking themselves into an early grave. It is no coincidence that as the affordability of alcohol has plummeted in recent decades, alcohol-related deaths, disease, crime and disorder have spiralled.

“I believe it’s crucial that we reintroduce realistic alcohol pricing. It cannot be right that a man can exceed his weekly recommended alcohol limit for less than £3.50. That’s why we’re taking decisive action, including proposals to introduce a minimum price per unit, which would bring these pocket money prices to an end.”

WSTA spokesman Gavin Partington responded: “Setting a minimum price at 45p doesn’t alter the fact that minimum pricing is wrong in principle. It won’t tackle alcohol misuse but will punish families on low incomes and pensioners.

“Surely ministers cannot believe that making a hazardous drinker pay an extra £1.08 per week [based on estimates in the Sheffield report] is going to solve the problem.

“It’s time the Scottish government stopped pursuing an approach already rejected by parliament and started working with other politicians and stakeholders on a range of policies to address the root causes of alcohol misuse.”

The Scotch Whisky Association said the move would be illegal, would restrict foreign trade and cut domestic consumption of Scotch whisky by 13%.

Chief executive Gavin Hewitt said: “The Scottish government’s scheme fails to meet the basic tests of EU law and will do little to address alcohol misuse. This policy would, however, significantly damage Scotch whisky at home and abroad.

“We need consensus on a legal alternative. Excise duty reform so that all drinks are taxed on the same basis, according to alcohol content, and a ban on sales below tax, is a fair and socially responsible way forward. It would also raise over £1 billion extra revenue for the public finances.”

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