Minimum pricing for alcohol agreed

A MINIMUM price of 50p per unit of alcohol was announced for Scotland on Monday, which could be in force by April next year.

The legislation, expected to be passed by the Scottish Parliament later this month, will see the cheapest 70cl bottle of vodka or gin cost £13.13, whisky rise to £14 and a the minimum price for a bottle of wine set at £4.50.

A Wigtownshire Chamber of Commerce statement this week said: “We understand the Scottish Government’s desire to reduce the problems associated with excessive alcohol consumption which cost the Scottish economy in excess £3.5bn annually - money which could be far better spent elsewhere.

“It remains to be seen whether minimum pricing will have the desired effect among problem drinkers whom these measures are aimed at.”

And chairman Peter Jeal added: “It’s a pity that those involved in drink-related disorder cannot be held more financially accountable for the cost of policing and medical services they use as a result of binge drinking rather than the collective approach being taken through minimum pricing which also impacts on responsible drinkers.”

Sheffield University’s alcohol research group was commissioned by the Scottish Government to examine the impact of the policy and concluded the 50p minimum would reduce overall alcohol consumption by an average 5.5 percent. In heavy drinkers, this figure increases to a 10 percent drop.

It is also claimed the legislation will lead to 3,500 fewer crimes and save the NHS and criminal justice system £64 million in harm reduction in its first year of introduction.

However, critics say the policy will lead to supermarkets gaining millions of pounds in extra profits and claim that only limited research has concluded that it actually reduces drinking levels and alcohol-related health issues.

They also warn of surge in counterfeit wine and spirits, with the Local Government Association claiming the move will encourage people to turn to cheap fake brands, which often contain lethal chemicals such as anti-freeze.