Off icial: Scots drinking moreboozeindefiance of minimum pricing
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.’