Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that the Scottish Government is committed to minimum alcohol pricing, as new research suggests the industry is targeting Scotland’s most deprived areas.
Alcohol misuse costs the country an estimated £3.6 billion each year, with one in 20 deaths linked to alcohol. Every 15 minutes someone in Scotland is hospitalised due to alcohol-related illness, with those from Scotland’s most deprived areas almost seven times more likely to be so.
Speaking at the Global Alcohol Policy Conference in Edinburgh on Wednesday, Sturgeon said: “I can confirm that the Scottish government continues to be absolutely committed to minimum unit pricing.
“I will continue to make the case against the sale of deadly cheap alcohol. During the three days of this conference, it is likely that approximately 300 people in Scotland will be admitted to hospital as a result of alcohol misuse, and that approximately ten people will die.
“Those shocking statistics demonstrate all too clearly why minimum pricing is the right measure for Scotland to reduce the harm that cheap, high-strength alcohol causes our communities.”
New research conducted by the Centre for Research on Environment, Society and Health (CRESH) shows that Scotland’s poorest neighbourhoods have twice the number of alcohol and tobacco outlets per head as the least deprived.
The country has 100 tobacco and 53 alcohol outlets per 10,000 population in the most deprived areas, compared to 50 tobacco and 25 alcohol outlets per 10,000 in the wealthiest areas.
Scottish neighbourhoods with the most alcohol outlets have double the alcohol-related death rates.
The findings suggest that the alcohol and tobacco industries are intentionally targeting the most vulnerable.
Niamh Shortt, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Edinburgh, led the research.
She told The Student: “We need to wake up to the power held by Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol. We need to urge our governments to put public health before profit. Do I support MUP [Minimum Unit Pricing]? Absolutely, 100 per cent, and I very much look forward to seeing its implementation in Scotland and elsewhere.”
In an interview with The Student, Professor Richard Mitchell from the University of Glasgow, who also worked on the research, said: “Scotland has a big problem with health inequality, that is poorer populations are much sicker than richer populations.
“If you look at responses from the industry over the last few days they say ‘we just go where the market is’, which of course is a bare faced lie – it is their business to create the market.
“They try to rubbish any science that comes out which kind of argues against their industry. They hide behind ultra-libertarian arguments.
“They’re very well resourced and they’re very clever. But ultimately what they’re trying to do is make money.”
Mitchell also supports the introduction of MUP.
He told The Student: “I actually think it’s a great idea. Is it going to solve all Scotland’s problems with alcohol, across the board, overnight? No, I don’t think it will. But it will help a lot. Nicola Sturgeon is trying to make a major contribution towards solving the problem and I applaud that.”
However, a court case launched by the Scottish Whisky Association may thwart plans to implement Minimum Unit Pricing, amid claims it is in breach of EU legislation on the free movement of goods.
David Frost, Scottish Whisky Association chief executive, said: “The Advocate General’s opinion published last month encouraged us in our long-held view that MUP is illegal when there are less trade restrictive measures available.
“We believe a partnership working between government and other stakeholders is fundamental to tackling alcohol harm.
“It is therefore frustrating that we, along with all members of the alcohol industry, have been told we are not welcome at this week’s Global Alcohol Policy Conference in Edinburgh.”
Image: Flickr: Mor