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Scotland sets date for minimum unit pricing

Published:  22 November, 2017

Scotland intends to introduce a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol on 1 May 2018 at 50p per unit.

The news was unveiled on Tuesday by Scottish health secretary Shona Robison, who confirmed that a consultation on the preferred MUP of 50p, would be published next week.

However, there has been some concern raised that the proposed 50p per unit price should be increased as it was proposed five years ago when the legislation was first mooted.

Robison said that the Scottish Government wanted to introduce MUP as “quickly as possible”.

“There were 1,265 alcohol-related deaths last year, up 10% on 2015, while just today we see statistics showing a 2% annual increase in alcohol-related hospital stays. These numbers are completely unacceptable, “ said Robison.

“With alcohol on sale today at just 18p a unit, we have to act to tackle the scourge of cheap, high-strength drink that causes so much damage.”

She added that research has shown that 50p would cut alcohol-related deaths by 392 and hospital admissions by 8,254 over the first five years of the policy.

“I anticipate setting the minimum unit price at 50p per unit. We now want to hear from retailers, representative bodies and Licensing Standards Officers about the practicalities of implementation,” she said.

Meanwhile a five-year sunset clause has been negotiated by the Conservatives, which will see the legislation reviewed and dropped if it is proved not to work.

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw, welcomed the move by the Government for a fast implementation but admitted there would need to be a discussion around the pricing.

“Not only is that figure now five years old, but will it be suitable for another five years as this policy develops?” he said.

“We sincerely hope this legislation leads to a reduction in the number of lives lost in Scotland to alcohol. It will be challenging to monitor the impact of this, and that’s something the Scottish Government will have to do very carefully over the coming years.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie is reported to be among those to have called for a 60p minimum price.

Scotland will be the first country to MUP on alcohol after the UK Supreme Court rejected a challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and European producers on 15 November.

The Scottish Parliament passed the Alcohol Minimum Pricing Bill in May 2012 but the SWA fought the move claiming that the legislation broke European law. Robison revealed that the SWA would pay the Scottish Government’s costs for a recent Supreme Court legal battle.