The Scottish Government has announced the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol, which would see spirit and strong cider prices soar north of the border.
This decision comes following an investigation which found that over two thirds of all spirits in Scotland are sold for less than the minimum pricing. The move has placed a minimum cap of 50p per alcohol unit.
Speaking to The Student, Gillian Bell from the charity Alcohol Focus Scotland, applauded the move.
Bell remarked: “In the first year alone, a 50p minimum unit price will prevent an estimated 1,600 hospital admissions and save 60 lives.”
In a report by The Scotsman, it was found that alcohol-related harm in Scotland costs £3.6 billion every year. Additionally, one in four people in Scotland drink more than the recommended weekly limit.
Last year, 1,150 Scots died directly from alcohol-related diseases or incidents. A study completed by the campaign group, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), revealed that residents north of the border are twice as likely to die of an alcohol-related health problem than anywhere else in the UK.
Others have criticised the legislation, accusing the Scottish Government of misunderstanding the problem of alcohol abuse.
In May, Graeme Littlejohn, spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association, told BBC that, whilst “more needs to be done to tackle alcohol-related harm […] minimum pricing is not the answer.”
The Association objected to the measures in court last month, referring to the minimum price law as a breach of European law. It raised concerns over the impact the ban could potentially have on both domestic and international trade of Scottish whisky. The legal challenge was, however, dismissed last month.
The price of blended whisky will rise by up to a fifth to account for the legislation, whilst the price of cheap ciders could double.
Alison Campbell, Public Health Minister and MSP for Clydesdale supported the move. She told The Scotsman that: “Minimum alcohol pricing is the most proportionate and effective way to reduce the harm caused specifically by cheap, high strength alcohol.”
Holyrood has received criticism for establishing a ‘nanny state’. Earlier this month, the Government suggested that alcohol be purchased only after 5pm. Rob Lyons, campaign manager for Action of Consumer Choice, said in an interview with The Daily Express that: “The NHS’s job is to stop people from dying too soon, not regulating how we live.”
Currently alcohol sales are prohibited before 10am and after 10pm in Scotland. Changing that, Lyons elaborated, “would pointlessly restrict the freedom of the majority in a futile effort to solve problem drinking.”
Holyrood has not yet indicated when the proposed change will take place.
Image: Benny B. Photography