Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Scotland stands firm on minimum pricing as drinking falls

Published:  21 August, 2013

Scotland's government has again defended plans for minimum pricing, after drinks industry leaders argued that falling alcohol consumption makes the policy obsolete.

Overall alcohol consumption in Scotland fell by 3% in 2012, to the equivalent of 10.9 litres per adult aged above 18 years, a new report from NHS Health Scotland says. Alcohol consumption has fallen by 8% since 2009, although it remains 6% higher than in 1994.

The figures have prompted renewed criticism of the Scottish government's plan to set a minimum price on drinks of 50p per alcohol unit.

"We welcome the continued decline in alcohol consumption in Scotland," said the Wine & Spirit Trade Association's chief executive, Miles Beale.

"A minimum unit price of 50p was predicted to achieve a 5.7% drop in consumption. Questions must now be asked about why the Scottish government is continuing to pursue this unfair, ineffective and probably illegal policy."

However, Scotland's public health minister, Michael Matheson, disagreed. "Enough alcohol is still sold for every adult in Scotland to drink at least the weekly sensible limit for men of 21 units, each and every week since 2000," he said.

Alcohol-related hospital admissions average at 100 per day and cost Scotland £3.6 billion per year, he added.

While he conceded that only a combination of policies can achieve lower drinking rates, he called cheap drink "the real source of Scotland's alcohol problem".

Scotland has devolved powers to set its own policy on alcohol pricing. Plans for minimum pricing in England were recently dropped by the UK government in London.

At the European level, the European Commission is considering whether to allow Scotland to proceed with minimum pricing from a trade perspective. The Commission itself previously decided against regulation in its own alcohol strategy for the 28-nation bloc.

At least five EU member states, including the big wine producer nations of France, Spain and Italy, have voiced opposition to the policy.