Min­i­mum price could push wine to £6 a bot­tle

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Gareth Rose SCOT­TISH PO­LIT­I­CAL ED­I­TOR

SCOTS could be forced to pay a le­gal min­i­mum of £6 for a bot­tle of red wine or £17 for whisky un­der plans to tackle prob­lem drink­ing.

Later this week, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment pro­pos­als for a min­i­mum price per unit for al­co­hol can pro­ceed.

In 2012, Holy­rood passed laws ban­ning the sale of booze for anything less than 50p per unit, but im­ple­men­ta­tion has been delayed by le­gal chal­lenges.

How­ever, The Scot­tish Mail on Sun­day can re­veal that if the plan gets the go-ahead from the Supreme Court, Scots could soon face a far higher min­i­mum price.

Sources among the var­i­ous health groups cam­paign­ing for higher al­co­hol prices have sig­nalled the 50p min­i­mum is years out of date.

One said: ‘To get the same im­pact now as 50p used to have, around 60-70p is about right.’

NHS Scot­land es­ti­mates that in 2009, 77 per cent of al­co­hol was sold at less than 50p per unit. By 2014, this had dropped to 52 per cent. With in­fla­tion now at 3 per cent, that fig­ure will have dropped sig­nif­i­cantly lower still.

There has also been an in­crease in drink­ing at home since 2012, which is likely to in­crease the fo­cus on cheap su­per­mar­ket drink.

The in­flu­en­tial char­ity Al­co­hol Fo­cus Scot­land says it un­der­stands the Gov­ern­ment will in­tro­duce a 50p per unit price next spring if given the green light by the UK’s high­est court this week. Min­i­mum pric­ing was pre­dicted to pre­vent 60 deaths, 1,600 hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sions and 3,500 crimes a year. If it falls short of that, Min­is­ters may de­cide the price is set too low.

Ali­son Dou­glas, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Al­co­hol Fo­cus Scot­land, said: ‘It is heart-breaking that in the five years since the Scot­tish par­lia­ment passed the leg­is­la­tion we have lost so many peo­ple to al­co­hol who could have been saved.

‘We know the ef­fec­tive­ness of 50p will not be as great as it would have been five years ago, but the benefits will still be sig­nif­i­cant. The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment will want to con­sider when to re­view the min­i­mum price rate, but that process has to be in­formed by ev­i­dence of the im­pact of 50p in prac­tice.’

The Al­co­hol (Min­i­mum Pric­ing) (Scot­land) Act 2012 con­tains a clause that says its suc­cess should be eval­u­ated af­ter five years.

But there are ear­lier re­view points that would al­low the Gov­ern­ment to in­crease the price af­ter only a year or two. And the Gov­ern­ment will also be urged not to drop its min­i­mum pric­ing plans, even if the Supreme Court al­lows the Scotch Whisky Association’s (SWA) ap­peal.

Ms Dou­glas said: ‘If the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment loses, then con­sid­er­a­tion will have to be given to al­ter­na­tive op­tions.’

Yes­ter­day the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment de­clined to dis­close how much tax­pay­ers’ cash had been spent on the five-year le­gal bat­tle.

Health Sec­re­tary Shona Ro­bi­son said: ‘We are look­ing for­ward to the judg­ment of the UK Supreme Court on min­i­mum unit pric­ing and, if it is the pos­i­tive out­come we have worked for, we will move as quickly as is prac­ti­ca­ble to put the pol­icy in place.’

An SWA spokesman said: ‘The pol­icy puts £4 bil­lion of ex­ports at risk. These ex­ports sup­port more than 40,000 jobs across the UK.’

‘We have lost peo­ple we could have saved’

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