Scotland outlines minimum price bill

The Scottish government has outlined its legislative programme for the coming year – including an Alcohol Bill that aims to introduce minimum pricing and ban “irresponsible” promotions in the off-trade.

The bill will also force licensing boards to consider raising the legal age to buy alcohol to 21 in all or part of the area they cover, and establish the power to introduce a social responsibility fee for some retailers.

Introducing the bill, the government said alcohol misuse costs £2.25 billion a year in extra services and lost productivity.

First Minister Alex Salmond said: “Up to 50% of men and 30% of women regularly drink more than the sensible drinking guidelines, and alcohol-related mortality rates have doubled over the past 15 years.

“Enough is enough. This Bill will introduce innovative measures to reduce alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm. Our proposals will be based on best practice and international evidence such as that from the World Health Organisation, and that is why the cornerstone of our approach will be to introduce a minimum pricing policy for alcohol.

“However, minimum pricing will be only one of a range of measures to tackle alcohol misuse. What is required is real, lasting, social and cultural change.”

The Scotch Whisky Association has accused the government of being blind to the long-term harmful consequences minimum pricing could have on Scotch whisky sales around the world.

A spokesman said: “Minimum prices will hurt Scottish distillers at home and overseas. Government figures show little evidence that this measure will tackle alcohol misuse, begging the question how high the price of alcohol will have to be increased by government, and penalising the majoirty in order to discourage the minority that drink excessively.”

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