Health minister announces 50p preferred minimum alcohol price


THE preferred minimum price for alcohol will be 50p per unit, it was announced today.

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

She also said that setting the price at this level would have significant health and social benefits.

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. She met with Dr Ewan Forrest, a consultant gastroenterologist who specialises in treating alcoholic liver disease.

Ms Sturgeon 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.

“There is now a groundswell of support for the policy across the medical profession, police forces, alcohol charities and from significant parts of the drinks and licensed trade industry who recognise the benefits minimum pricing can bring – saving lives and reducing crime.

“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
  • 1,600 fewer hospital admissions
  • A total value of harm reduction of £64 million
  • Around 3,500 fewer crimes per year

After ten years, benefits would increase to:

  • Over 300 fewer deaths annually
  • 6,500 fewer hospital admissions
  • A cumulative value of harm reduction of £942 million

Chief Medical Officer Sir Harry Burns said: “For too long too many Scots have drunk too much and now it’s time for tough action to address this.

“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.”