Scottish Government announces minimum 50p alcohol pricing

 

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The Independent Online

Alcohol should be sold at a minimum price of 50p per unit to help tackle drink-related illness, the Scottish Government has said.

The preferred floor price was set out by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon as part of legislation expected to be passed at Holyrood next week.

In England and Wales, the UK Government has used a minimum price of 40p to illustrate its proposals.

The policy in Scotland would lead to 60 fewer deaths, 1,600 fewer hospital admissions and 3,500 fewer crimes in its first year, according to academic research.

The Sheffield University study estimates that after 10 years, the benefits would rise to 300 fewer deaths annually, 6,500 fewer hospital admissions and overall savings worth £942 million.

Cheaper own-brand products and super-strength lagers would increase in cost.

A 50p minimum price would take the cost of a 70cl bottle of 37.5% vodka to no less than £13.13, the Government said.

Four 440ml cans of 9% lager would increase to a minimum of £7.92.

A 75cl bottle of 12.5% wine would be sold for no less than £4.69

The 50p level, which could be in place after next April, will remain for at least two years to allow the market to react and settle before the price is reviewed.

Ms Sturgeon made the announcement during a visit to Glasgow Royal Infirmary where she toured a ward for patients with liver complaints.

She said: "Cheap alcohol comes at a price and now is the time to tackle the toll that Scotland's unhealthy relationship with alcohol is taking on our society.

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

"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."

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

Labour is the only party not to have supported the revised legislation when it was debated at the first stage in March this year.

Earlier this month MSPs agreed to a sunset clause, meaning the law could be scrapped in six years if the policy does not work.

MSPs have previously banned discount deals such as two-for-one on bottles of wine, restricted irresponsible drinks promotions and advertising around premises, and set a requirement for age verification.

The proposed minimum price first time round was 45p per unit.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Since 45p was first proposed as the minimum price 18 months ago we have seen inflation of around 5%. A minimum price of 50p takes this into account and will achieve a similar level of public health benefits to what 45p would have achieved in 2010."

She rejected concerns that the policy could fall foul of European competition laws.

She said: "This policy is capable of complying with European law. Alcohol minimum pricing is not, per se, illegal in terms of European law but we need to take care, and we have taken care, on where we set the price to ensure that we deliver the health benefits that will justify that policy, and I believe we can do that."

She has also not ruled out using a social responsibility levy to claw back some of the profits supermarkets are predicted to make.

The preferred floor price was set out by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon as part of legislation expected to be passed at Holyrood next week.

In England and Wales, the UK Government has used a minimum price of 40p to illustrate its proposals.

The policy in Scotland would lead to 60 fewer deaths, 1,600 fewer hospital admissions and 3,500 fewer crimes in its first year, according to academic research.

The Sheffield University study estimates that after 10 years, the benefits would rise to 300 fewer deaths annually, 6,500 fewer hospital admissions and overall savings worth £942 million.

Cheaper own-brand products and super-strength lagers would increase in cost.

A 50p minimum price would take the cost of a 70cl bottle of 37.5% vodka to no less than £13.13, the Government said.

Four 440ml cans of 9% lager would increase to a minimum of £7.92.

A 75cl bottle of 12.5% wine would be sold for no less than £4.69

The 50p level, which could be in place after next April, will remain for at least two years to allow the market to react and settle before the price is reviewed.

Ms Sturgeon made the announcement during a visit to Glasgow Royal Infirmary where she toured a ward for patients with liver complaints.

She said: "Cheap alcohol comes at a price and now is the time to tackle the toll that Scotland's unhealthy relationship with alcohol is taking on our society.

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

"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."

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

Labour is the only party not to have supported the revised legislation when it was debated at the first stage in March this year.

Earlier this month MSPs agreed to a sunset clause, meaning the law could be scrapped in six years if the policy does not work.

MSPs have previously banned discount deals such as two-for-one on bottles of wine, restricted irresponsible drinks promotions and advertising around premises, and set a requirement for age verification.

The proposed minimum price first time round was 45p per unit.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Since 45p was first proposed as the minimum price 18 months ago we have seen inflation of around 5%. A minimum price of 50p takes this into account and will achieve a similar level of public health benefits to what 45p would have achieved in 2010."

She rejected concerns that the policy could fall foul of European competition laws.

She said: "This policy is capable of complying with European law. Alcohol minimum pricing is not, per se, illegal in terms of European law but we need to take care, and we have taken care, on where we set the price to ensure that we deliver the health benefits that will justify that policy, and I believe we can do that."

She has also not ruled out using a social responsibility levy to claw back some of the profits supermarkets are predicted to make.

Scottish Labour public health spokesman Dr Richard Simpson said the SNP must claw back any extra profits gained by supermarkets.

Large retailers are estimated to make £124.5 million from minimum pricing and the discount ban, according to the Sheffield research.

Dr Simpson, a former addictions specialist, said: "The need to claw back the multimillion 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.

"This money could, and we believe absolutely should, be ploughed back into tackling the causes and effects of excessive drinking."

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw 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."

Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: "No longer can Scots and our Government stand to one side whilst alcohol increasingly wrecks lives, families and communities. The nay-sayers continue to ignore the close link price has with consumption and consumption has with harm.

"In short, within the last 30 years alcohol prices have plummeted, and alcohol death and poor health has increased. The Liberal Democrats back this change."

Bob Doris, SNP deputy convener of Holyrood's health and sport committee, highlighted a comment by Diane Abbott, shadow public health minister at Westminster, who called for the UK Government to follow the Scottish Government plan.

She wrote on her Twitter site: "Minimum alcohol price in Scotland to be set at 50p a unit. UK needs to match Scottish proposal."

Mr Doris said: "Diane Abbott is no doubt embarrassed and bewildered by the behaviour of her Scottish colleagues who continue to put party politics ahead of public health.

"She is absolutely right. The UK needs to match the Scottish proposal, but Scottish Labour needs to match UK Labour in supporting this progressive measure."

PA

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