The Scottish government has published a bill today that will look to set a minimum price for a unit of alcohol as a condition of licence.
At present alcohol consumption is said to be significantly higher north of the border and the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Bill seeks to tackle this problem.
“By setting a minimum price for a unit of alcohol, we can raise the price of the cheap supermarket white ciders, lager and value spirits sought out by problem drinkers,” said Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon.
Sturgeon believes that current action, including a ban on quantity discounts as well as a restriction on promotions in off-sales, are being undermined by a lack of minimum pricing.
“I hope that this time around MSPs will do the right thing and back this policy that has the support of doctors, nurses, the police and growing numbers of the general population,” she added.
“I will not shirk from leading the way in addressing this challenge. It is time for Scotland to win its battle with the booze.”
Earlier this year, the Scottish Finance Secretary, John Swinney, announced a levy to increase business rates for large retailers of alcohol and tobacco.
Swinney claimed that the proposal, which was outlined in his Budget in September, would be a source of extra health funding, though this was rebuffed by the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) as “illogical and discriminatory”.
At this stage, the Scottish government has not fixed a unit price, as a previous attempt to do so when they were in minority government was unsuccessful, following suggestions that changes would badly affect the retail industry in the country.
Annually, Scottish alcohol consumption costs £3.56 billion, equating to £900 per adult. A 45p per unit minimum price which was proposed in the last Parliament was estimated to reduce deaths in its first year by 50, increasing to 225 by year ten.
Specific minimum prices per unit of alcohol will be announced during the Bill process, though the University of Sheffield are first re-running their minimum price modelling to reflect the most up to date data which includes the Scottish Health Survey 2010, published on September 27th 2011.
Dr Linda de Caestecker, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Director of Public Health Medicine, explained that Greater Glasgow and Clyde experience some of the highest alcohol-related death rates in the whole of the Western world.
“I strongly support minimum pricing as a key action to reduce over-consumption of alcohol in Scotland. Instead of leading the league table of alcohol related harm, Scotland now has the chance to lead the way in tackling alcohol problems,” she added.