Off icial: Scots drink­ing more­boozein­de­fi­ance of min­i­mum pric­ing

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - News - By Gareth Rose

THE SNP’s ban on cheap al­co­hol is fail­ing to re­duce con­sump­tion, the NHS has ad­mit­ted.

Scots ac­tu­ally drank more in the first six months af­ter the in­tro­duc­tion of min­i­mum pric­ing, ac­cord­ing to ex­pert anal­y­sis in an of­fi­cial re­port.

Re­search papers cited by NHS Health Scot­land all show spend­ing on al­co­hol has con­tin­ued to rise since the pol­icy was in­tro­duced on May 1.

The in­crease in prices has seen spend­ing soar, but con­sump­tion has also risen, ac­cord­ing to re­ports from three mar­ket anal­y­sis bod­ies:

Nielsen re­ported that Scots spent 14 per cent more and drank 4 per cent more;

The Re­tail Data Part­ner­ship ac­tu­ally found sales had in­creased by 15 per cent;

IRI also re­ported sales were up, in­clud­ing 17 per cent ex­tra spent on Buck­fast tonic wine.

Both the Nielsen and IRI fig­ures were first re­ported in this news­pa­per in Oc­to­ber.

The SNP fought a five-year le­gal bat­tle to in­crease the cost of al­co­holic drinks to a min­i­mum of 50p per unit. The then Health Sec­re­tary Alex Neil claimed it would start sav­ing lives ‘within months’.

But NHS Health Scot­land now says it is too early to judge the suc­cess of the pol­icy. Its re­port states: ‘Re­ported in­creases across all al­co­hol cat­e­gories in Scot­land ap­pear to be smaller than those re­ported for the same time pe­riod in Eng­land and Wales.’

Yet any in­crease will be of lit­tle com­fort to the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment, es­pe­cially when con­sump­tion is al­ready so much higher north of the Bor­der.

Scot­tish men are twice as likely to suf­fer al­co­hol-re­lated deaths as their English coun­ter­parts, ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice for Na­tional Statis­tics.

Miles Briggs, Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive health spokesman, said: ‘The SNP raised ex­pec­ta­tions that min­i­mum pric­ing would pro­vide a quick and dra­matic im­pact on prob­lem drink­ing and that is patently not the case.

‘What we have seen is clearly con­sumer be­hav­iour and pur­chas­ing change.

‘We should wait and see the im­pact of min­i­mum pric­ing in the long term, but in the short term the SNP must stop this pri­ori­ti­sa­tion of spin over

‘SNP must stop pri­ori­tis­ing spin over re­al­ity’

re­al­ity and work to make sure we get pub­lic health pol­icy right.’

Sue Robert­son, deputy chair­man of BMA Scot­land, said: ‘All the ev­i­dence shows that ad­dress­ing the price, avail­abil­ity and mar­ket­ing of al­co­hol are the most ef­fec­tive ways of re­duc­ing con­sump­tion.

‘Rush­ing to any judg­ment on the ba­sis of this lim­ited ev­i­dence would be nei­ther ad­vis­able nor sen­si­ble.’

A Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment spokesman high­lighted the fall in sales of Frosty Jack’s cider as ev­i­dence the pol­icy was hav­ing some pos­i­tive im­pact.

He said: ‘A re­ported 70 per cent re­duc­tion in sales of a brand of strong cider in­di­cates the pol­icy is al­ready de­liv­er­ing pos­i­tive re­sults.’

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