Scottish government proposes minimum alcohol price of 45p per unit
The Scottish government has confirmed that it proposes to introduce a minimum price of 45p per unit of alcohol, in order to tackle alcohol misuse and prevent related illnesses.
Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon claimed that 45p per unit is "the right price" to ensure minimum pricing is effective at reducing alcohol-related deaths and saving the NHS money.
The Scottish government now plans to include the 45p price in the Alcohol (Scotland) Bill, which is about to start the second stage of the parliamentary process.
Experts believe that minimum pricing could have immediate benefits, including 50 fewer deaths, 1,200 fewer hospital admissions and a £5.5 million reduction in healthcare costs in the first year.
However, the benefits will increase in time and, after ten years, the policy would lead to 225 fewer deaths from alcohol-related harm and 4,200 fewer hospital admissions each year.
"It is no coincidence that as the affordability of alcohol has plummeted in recent decades, alcohol-related deaths, disease, crime and disorder have spiralled," Ms Sturgeon observed.
"I believe it's crucial that we reintroduce realistic alcohol pricing. It cannot be right that a man can exceed his weekly recommended alcohol limit for less than £3.50," she added.
Dr Harry Burns, Scotland's chief medical officer, said that the country has "an unenviable reputation" when it comes to alcohol.
"We are, sadly, world-class when it comes to damaging our health through heavy drinking. But that can change," he claimed.
"Scotland led the way in the UK when it came to banning smoking in public places and I believe we must also lead the way in introducing a minimum price for alcohol."
The news was welcomed by the Scottish branch of the British Medical Association, whose chairman Dr Brian Keighley said that opposition parties had failed to come up with a viable alternative to minimum pricing.
"As the price of alcohol has fallen, consumption has increased - so much so that in Scotland we are drinking 25 per cent more than our counterparts in England and Wales," he revealed.
"Alcohol-related illness causes one death every three hours in Scotland and the healthcare costs are more than £268 million.
"The eyes of the world are on the Scottish parliament. I urge MSPs not to let us down and to support minimum pricing because it is the right thing to do."
Emily Arkell, Cancer Research UK's policy manager, said: "After smoking and obesity, alcohol is one the most important risk factors for cancer that people can control. As well as restricting alcohol marketing and the availability of alcohol, there is good evidence that increasing the price of alcohol will affect how much people drink.
"Cancer Research UK believes that the government should consider minimum pricing as one of the ways to reduce the amount people drink."