Alcohol minimum unit pricing comes into effect in Scotland
Alcoholic products will now cost a minimum of 50p per unit in Scotland, after legislation passed in 2012 finally comes into effect.
The policy is being introduced to tackle the damage caused by cheap, high strength alcohol such as super strength lager, white ciders and cheap vodka.
Doctors have called the move “an important milestone” in tackling alcohol-related harm.
The policy was challenged in the courts by the drinks industry but the appeal was ultimately rejected by the Supreme Court in November.
The decision means Scotland is the first country in the world to introduce minimum pricing, with many countries thought to be considering the move.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I am extremely proud that the eyes of the world will once again be on Scotland with the introduction of this legislation.
“Our action is bold and it is brave, and shows once again that we are leading the way in introducing innovative solutions to public health challenges.
“It’s no secret that Scotland has a troubled relationship with alcohol. There are, on average, 22 alcohol-specific deaths every week in Scotland, and 697 hospital admissions and behind every one of these statistics is a person, a family, and a community badly affected by alcohol misuse.
“Given the clear and proven link between consumption and harm, minimum unit pricing is the most effective and efficient way to tackle the cheap, high strength alcohol that causes so much damage to so many families.”
Dr Peter Rice, the chair of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), a group of clinicians who built the case for the policy, said they were “proud and delighted” that it is finally being implemented.
“Doctors, nurses and other health professionals experience first-hand the consequences of having cheap alcohol widely available, with the harms affecting the poorest and most vulnerable communities in Scotland,” he said.
“We are all hoping that we will soon start seeing fewer patients in our surgeries and hospital wards suffering from alcohol-related harms, and we look forward to that.”
Professor Steve Turner, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Officer for Scotland, said: “Alcohol consumption by parents affects children in several ways - it damages the developing brain in the womb and is known to increase the likelihood of domestic abuse, child neglect and child poverty.
“Increasing the price of cheap, strong alcohol will reduce this harm to children and young people in Scotland, improving their physical and mental wellbeing. We now would like to see other nations who are yet to implement an introduction of minimum alcohol unit pricing follow-suit so similar health benefits are felt elsewhere.”
The Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Greens have called for Parliament to consider increasing the minimum price from 50p in the future, while the Scottish Conservatives said the policy’s ‘sunset clause’ should be used if it fails to make an impact.