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by Tom Freeman
22 November 2017
Alcohol minimum pricing to be enforced from May

Alcohol minimum pricing to be enforced from May

Alcohol - PA

Measures to tackle cheap alcohol by setting a minimum price per unit will come into force from May 1, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

Minimum Unit Pricing was passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2012 but has been stalled by a lengthy legal battle by drinks manufacturers who want to protect cheap products.

The plans will mean a unit of alcohol will cost a minimum of 50p, meaning a bottle of wine will cost at least around £4.50 and a 70cl bottle of spirit such as whisky or vodka could not cost less than £14.

However, the price of very cheap alcohol which causes the most damage in Scotland, such as super strength lager and white ciders would rise considerably.

 Health Secretary Shona Robison said the 50p price decided five years ago would open to consultation, but that minimum unit pricing would come into effect "as soon as possible".

“There were 1,265 alcohol-related deaths last year, up 10 per cent on 2015, while just today we see statistics showing a 2 per cent annual increase in alcohol-related hospital stays," she said.

"These numbers are completely unacceptable. Behind every one of these statistics is a person, a family and a community.

“With alcohol on sale today at just 18 pence a unit, we have to act to tackle the scourge of cheap, high-strength drink that causes so much damage.

“Research shows a minimum unit price of 50 pence would cut alcohol-related deaths by 392 and hospital admissions by 8,254 over the first five years of the policy.

“I anticipate setting the minimum unit price at 50 pence per unit. We now want to hear from retailers, representative bodies and Licensing Standards Officers about the practicalities of implementation.”

The Scottish Conservatives back the measure, but only with the inclusion of a "sunset clause" which commits to reviewing it if it proves unsuccessful in reducing alcohol harm.

Deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: “This is a welcome step and the Scottish Government is right to introduce this as soon as possible.

“There is also a discussion to be had about the 50p rate. Not only is that figure now five years old, but will it be suitable for another five years as this policy develops?

“We sincerely hope this legislation leads to a reduction in the number of lives lost in Scotland to alcohol.

“This is also the first time a sunset clause has been used.

“It will be challenging to monitor the impact of this, and that’s something the Scottish Government will have to do very carefully over the coming years.

“But the sunset clause could also be a model for future controversial health legislation.”

The Scotch Whisky Association, who led the legal challenge, said it accepted the judgement and would "continue to work in partnership with the government and the voluntary sector to promote responsible drinking and to tackle alcohol-related harm".

Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs have said the measure will encourage discussion about alcohol consumption within families.

Chief executive Justina Murray said: "We hope this progressive policy will kick-start a national conversation around alcohol and its impact on families, including the effects of price, marketing, and availability.

"The introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing means we can now focus on fully assessing the impact of price on what and how much people drink in Scotland.

"Along with our partners in the Alcohol Advocacy Coalition, we are calling for every child in Scotland to have the right to an alcohol-free childhood and we believe that Minimum Unit Pricing brings this a step closer.”

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