Scotland introduces minimum alcohol price bill

The Scottish government has introduced its bill to create a minimum price for alcohol.

The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill was introduced by health minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday (October 31) and posted today.

In its explanatory notes, the government said: “Alcohol is not an ordinary commodity – it is a psychoactive and potentially toxic and addictive substance and is a contributory factor in 50 different causes of illness and death, ranging from stomach cancer and strokes to assaults and road deaths. Alcohol-related hospital discharges have more than quadrupled since the early 1980s, while mortality has doubled. 

“The harms are not just limited to health and not experienced solely by the drinker – damage can occur to family and friends, communities, employers, and Scotland as a whole. Alcohol misuse acts as a brake on Scotland’s social and economic growth, costing an estimated £3.56 billion each year. For the mid-point estimate, this includes £866 million in lost productivity, a cost of £269 million to the NHS and £727 million in crime costs.”

The bill does not suggest a minimum price, but lays the groundwork for one to be set in the future. 

The Scotch Whisky Association has said the bill is unlikely to reduce alcohol misuse and violates European Union and international trade rules – and warned that it could damage the Scotch whisky trade, which exports goods worth more than £3.4 billion a year.

Chief executive Gavin Hewitt said: “The Scottish government’s fixation with minimum pricing as a solution to alcohol-related harm is misguided. The impact of recent legislation has not yet been fully felt and many other measures to address alcohol misuse remain untested.

“The Scotch whisky industry agrees that Scotland’s drinking culture has to change. We are working with the Scottish government to deliver that.

“Minimum pricing is the wrong policy option. It will not achieve the objective of a more healthy, positive and responsible attitude to alcohol.”

Last week British public health minister Anne Milton said minimum unit pricing on alcohol was “probably illegal”.

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