Scottish government seeks minimum alcohol price of 50p per unit


Nicola Sturgeon: "This is a big policy designed to address a big problem"

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The Scottish government has confirmed that it wants to set a minimum price for alcohol of 50p per unit.

The figure - 5p higher than the one which had been proposed in the previous parliament - comes as a 40p price is planned for England and Wales.

The Scottish Nationalists hope the measure will reduce the health problems caused by excessive drinking.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement during a visit to Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

It is hoped the move - which would make the ­cheapest bottle of wine £4.69, while a four-pack of lager would cost at least £3.52 - will lead to a reduction in hospital admissions and deaths through alcohol abuse.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Too many Scots are drinking themselves to death. The problem affects people of all walks of life.

Benefits of policy

After one year After 10 years

Source: Sheffield University's alcohol research group

60 fewer deaths

More than 300 fewer deaths annually

1,600 fewer hospital admissions

6,500 fewer hospital admissions

A total value of harm reduction of £64m

A cumulative value of harm reduction of £942m

"It's no coincidence that as affordability has increased, alcohol-related hospital admissions have quadrupled, and it is shocking that half of our prisoners now say they were drunk when they committed the offence. It's time for this to stop.

"Introducing a minimum price per unit will enable us to tackle these problems, given the clear link between affordability and consumption.

"There is now a groundswell of support for the policy across the medical profession, police forces, alcohol charities and from significant parts of the drinks and licensed trade industry who recognise the benefits minimum pricing can bring - saving lives and reducing crime."

Sheffield University's alcohol research group was commissioned by the Scottish government to examine the impact of the policy.

Dr John Holmes, who was part of the project team, told BBC Radio Scotland the move would have a significant impact on drinking habits.

He said: "We found that a 50p minimum price would lead to an overall reduction in consumption of 5.5%. So harmful drinkers' consumption would fall by more than 10%, whereas moderate drinkers would see their consumption fall by just 2.5%.

"In terms of how much extra spending that would mean, harmful drinkers would have to spend over £120 extra a year on their alcohol, whereas moderate drinkers would spend just £8 a year more."

Start Quote

To the politics then. Is there any substance to the often-voiced complaint that Labour is only opposing this scheme because it was dreamed up by the SNP? Because they want to deny the Nationalists their "smoking ban" moment. ”

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The Alcohol Minimum Pricing Bill is making its second passage through parliament after defeat in 2010 when the SNP was in a minority administration.

It passed through parliament without opposition in March.

Ms Sturgeon promised to announce what the minimum price per unit would be before Holyrood's final vote on the legislation later in this parliament.

The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats supported the legislation, while Labour abstained.

The law will be ditched after six years if the policy does not work after a "sunset clause" was inserted as part of a deal to secure Conservative support for the SNP proposals.

Scottish Labour said it had been prepared to support the policy if the SNP government clawed back the "multi-million pound windfall the policy generates".

The party is worried that the minimum price would generate profits for alcohol retailers in excess of £125m.

People in Glasgow respond to the plan to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol

Its public health spokesman Dr Richard Simpson said: "By setting a minimum price of 50p, it will mean even bigger profits for the big alcohol retailers and not a single extra penny going towards our police or health services that are left to mop up the consequences of alcohol misuse.

"The need to claw back the multi-million windfall is now even more urgent, especially at a time when budgets across the public sector are tight and the SNP is already cutting the alcohol treatment budget by millions of pounds."

'Give it a chance'

But Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw was critical of Labour for not giving its full backing.

He said: "Minimum pricing will have all the more authority if it commands all party support.

"Given that Scottish Conservatives have secured a 'sunset clause' there is no excuse for Labour remaining isolated. However sceptical, all parties should now unite to give minimum pricing a chance to succeed."

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie welcomed the price move.

He said: "A higher than expected price should have an even more significant impact on alcohol misuse that blights lives, communities and families. The SNP can count on the support of the Liberal Democrats for minimum pricing."

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) also welcomed the Scottish government's announcement.

Its chief executive Paul Waterson said: "The whole issue of introducing retail price controls for the sale of alcohol is a brave step by the Scottish government and one that the SLTA supports and has campaigned for since the 1970s, when retail price maintenance was abolished.

"The 50p per unit minimum price is an appropriate starting point which is fair and 'proportionate' to help combat the low cost sales of alcohol we see around us every day, which contribute to the abuse of alcohol problems within Scotland."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1099.

    1097 David,
    "It's not a tax, right?"

    It depends how you define tax. One definition is "a fee charged by a government on a product, income or activity"

    Because the government is planning on forcing these minimum prices, you could argue that it is a tax by definition.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1098.

    Binge drinking and alcohol related crime are crippling the NHS and police force. About time some measures were taken to try and deal with the £m's wasted every year, also to make our towns and cities safer to walk round at night, especially at weekends.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1097.

    It's not a tax, right? It's a minimum unit price to prevent supermarkets under-charging. It won't affect most purchases only those "buy one cider get one free" offers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1096.

    I don't know why English posters are mocking this, Westminster is also implementing it with the backing of the Labour party.

    Labour oppose it in Scotland due to the Bain principle.

    Scotland are using a supermarket levy to recoup profit for NHS Scotland.

    Westminster is leaving the profit with the supermarket.

    It starts next April in Scotland England to follow

    BBC fail to report all facts

  • rate this

    Comment number 1095.

    Why do we live in a country where dealing with an issue means increase the price/tax. It would'ne be so bad if the money raised from this increase was given to help alcoholics but no will go to the same pop to waste on propping up the banks or paying MP's expenses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1094.

    Is this a taste of what might come if Scotland goes independent? Ill thought through measures that will only work if England follows suit? People from Scotland will soon be travelling to England to buy booze, the way those in England do to France! Time to buy an off-licence in the Borders I think......

  • rate this

    Comment number 1093.

    I hear our free local Tesco bus isn't going to Tesco in Edinburgh, but Berwick and back. LOL.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1092.

    England would have to pass legislation to equal the alcahol price hike in
    Scotland. The Scots would have to introduce customs posts all across their borders.Otherwise cross border unoffical alcahol imports will lead to the breakdown of this ill considered legislation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1091.

    well done the SNP.
    I bet the retailers in Carlisle and Berwick are rubbing their hands in glee right now ;)

  • rate this

    Comment number 1090.

    Yipee, home brew kits available in boots again. Maybe alcholholics will get a free nip at the chemist alongside those on methadone. Those in the north of Scotland will not have to worry, home stils will become the fashion again. New jobs for Revenue Officers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1089.

    In the same way as we honour the killed in action.
    Our condolences go to the families of those brave souls who lost their battle against disease caused by legally run tax collection businesses in our country.
    This done on a daily or weekly basis would help more than punitive price fixing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1088.

    BBC states "The Scottish Nationalists hope the measure will reduce the health problems caused by excessive drinking." should read

    "Scottish Government believe this policy along with others, will contribute to the reduction of health problems caused by excessive drinking."

    bbc coverage is unprofessional and sensationalist, designed to put peoples backs up rather than explore views.

    C McK

  • rate this

    Comment number 1087.

    You don't want people sober - they start to look around them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1086.

    Yes, prohibition has been a raging success in America, bringing crime down to almost zero with the aid of quick-witted police officers.
    What year is this ?

  • Comment number 1085.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1084.

    It'll soon be cheaper to go out for a night in Spain, than one in this Country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1083.

    Having moved to Canada and previously a young binge drinker, I feel higher drink prices are a way of reducing alcohol consumption. In the UK I would regularly get three bottles of wine for 10 quid or three 15 packs of beer at asda for 20 quid, but when I moved to Canada it cost 10 quid for one bottle of wine and 25 - 30 quid for 24 pack of beer and guess what, I hardly drink anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1082.

    Those that drink alcohol all day and all night can't possibly be fit for work the next day. Those that binge drink at weekends can't be fit for work when they go in on Monday.

    And yet all our amazingly educated intelligent sober politicians have managed to trash this country beyond belief

    Booze is the least of our problems

    Politicians are FAR more damaging to society than drunks

  • rate this

    Comment number 1081.

    We spent through bank exploits/HMG indulgence of the past 20 years, now truly indebted to payback for the next 50 years(Cur.debt approx £800B soon to be £1600B not incl.PFI- BoE/Bank scam)No fudjicary duty/prudence by populist inept politicians created binge drink now, tinkering with a min.rate will cureDisposable income reduction impacting for the past 3 years and so on will have more effect,

  • rate this

    Comment number 1080.

    50 pence per unit is way too cheap - double it.

    Those that drink alcohol all day and all night can't possibly be fit for work the next day. Those that binge drink at weekends and get wasted can't be fit for work when they go in on Monday.

    Wait a minute... I think I've just spotted my reasoning error.


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