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Minimum price for alcohol announced in Scotland

Alcohol Bill shortly to start final stages

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 14 May 2012

The preferred minimum price for alcohol will be 50p per unit in Scotland, the Scottish Government has announced today.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the new pricing would have ‘significant health and social benefits’.

She said that set at this level, the price was equivalent to the 45p per unit set in 2010 after taking account of inflation.

Ms Sturgeon made the announcement during a visit to a gastroenterology ward at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where 80% of patients are there because of alcohol misuse.

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,” she said.

“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 Health Secretary added that the policy was supported by the medical profession, police forces and alcohol charities.

“Since 45p was first proposed as the minimum price 18 months ago, we have seen inflation of around five per cent.  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.”

The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill is shortly to start the final stage of the parliamentary process.

The Bill looks to set a minimum price for a unit of alcohol as a condition of licence. It also sets the formula for calculating the minimum price (based on the strength of the alcohol, the volume of the alcohol and a price per unit of alcohol).

According to a minimum pricing modelling study carried out by the University of Sheffield, it is estimated by that in the first year, introducing a minimum price of 50p would see: 60 fewer deaths and 1,600 fewer hospital admissions. It suggests a total value of harm reduction of £64 million. Over ten years it suggests the benefits would increase to a cumulative value of harm reduction of £942 million.

Commenting on the pricing decision, Chief Medical Officer Sir Harry Burns said: “I strongly support minimum pricing, as part of a wider framework of action, as the best chance we have of reducing Scotland’s harmful levels of alcohol consumption.

“Alcohol-related disease and violence are costing the NHS millions of pounds every year and this cannot be allowed to continue.”

Commenting on the Scottish government's announcement Sir Ian Gilmore, Royal College of Physicians special advisor on alcohol and chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “I’m delighted that the Scottish Government continue to be committed to this vital public health measure. The Scottish Government has undertaken careful analysis of alcohol sales and alcohol related harm. It is important that this research continues in order to successfully implement the policy to deliver significant health gains for the population.”

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