May 24 2012
Scotland is set to become the first part of the UK to approve plans for minimum pricing for alcohol.
MSPs at Holyrood are expected to back Scottish Government legislation, which means drinkers must pay at least 50p per unit of alcohol.
The UK Government is planning to set a minimum price of 40p per unit for England and Wales.
Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon announced the proposed minimum price last week, saying: "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."
Setting the minimum price at 50p would lead to 60 fewer deaths, 1,600 fewer hospital admissions and 3,500 fewer crimes in its first year, according to academic research. After 10 years the benefits would rise to 300 fewer deaths annually, 6,500 fewer hospital admissions and overall savings worth £942 million, the Sheffield University study estimated. Cheaper own-brand products and super-strength lagers would increase in cost.
A 50p minimum price would take the cost of a 70cl bottle of 37.5% vodka to no less than £13.13, the Scottish Government said. Four 440ml cans of 9% lager would increase to a minimum of £7.92 and a 75cl bottle of 12.5% wine could be sold for no less than £4.69.
The minimum price, which could be in place by next April, will remain for at least two years to allow the market to react and settle before the price level is reviewed.
A previous attempt by the SNP to introduce minimum pricing failed, being voted down at Holyrood when the Nationalists were in minority administration. Now the measure has the support of the Tories and Liberal Democrats, and with the SNP having a majority in the Scottish Parliament, the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill will be passed.
SNP MSP Bob Doris said it leaves Labour "on the wrong side of the argument" at Holyrood, while the party's Scottish MPs backed minimum pricing at Westminster. He urged the party to vote in favour or minimum pricing, saying that Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont had "one last chance to put Labour's dreadful politicking of the last few years behind her and back a policy which she knows is in the interests of the people of Scotland".
Labour public health spokesman Dr Richard Simpson said his party would support the Bill, if the Scottish Government accepted its proposals to "claw back all of the multimillion-pound windfall the policy generates" for retailers. Supermarkets and other off-sales could benefit from an extra £125 million a year as a result of minimum pricing, the party said.