According to Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, “Since 45p was first proposed as the minimum price 18 months ago, we have seen inflation of around five per cent.
“A minimum price of 50p takes this into account and will achieve a similar level of public health benefits to what 45p would have achieved in 2010.”
Setting the price at this level would have significant health and social benefits, she added.
“It’s no coincidence that as affordability has increased, alcohol-related hospital admissions have quadrupled, and it is shocking that half of our prisoners now say they were drunk when they committed the offence. It’s time for this to stop.
“Introducing a minimum price per unit will enable us to tackle these problems, given the clear link between affordability and consumption.”
When introduced next year, a bottle of vodka could not be sold for less than £13.12 while a two-liter bottle of cider would go for a minimum of £6.
The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill (making its second passage through the Scottish Parliament following its 2010 defeat for the then minority administration Scottish National Party) will start the last stage of the parliamentary process shortly as it looks to set a minimum price for a unit of alcohol as a condition of licence. The Alcohol Minimum Pricing Bill is making its second passage through the Scottish Parliament after defeat in 2010 when the SNP was in a minority administration.
The move has the support of the Conservatives and Lib Dems at Holyrood while Labour warned that it could face legal challenge from the EU, describing it as a “bonanza” for supermarkets.
And Gavin Partington, Chief Executive of the UK’s Wine & Spirits Trade Association, stated, "Hard pressed consumers in Scotland can now see the true impact of the Scottish Government’s policy. A minimum unit price of 50p will punish the majority of responsible consumers with higher prices, hitting the poorest hardest and will do nothing to tackle the root causes of alcohol misuse.
"The Government’s own report shows that 73 per cent of all alcohol prices in the off-trade would rise overnight as a result of a 50p minimum unit price.”
Pubs of Ulster’s Chief Executive Colin Neil welcomed the announcement a being the first time that real legislative action has been taken to address the issue of cut-price alcohol.
“Extensive research has shown that this is the pricing level necessary to significantly reduce consumption amongst harmful drinkers whilst not penalising those who drink responsibly,” he commented, “Here in Northern Ireland, we’re also faced with the same alcohol issues as Scotland. The availability of incredibly cheap alcohol, namely by the large supermarkets, is having a serious impact on issues such as health and antisocial behaviour. It has now become acceptable for large retailers to sell alcohol as a loss leader and offer customers alcohol cheaper than bottled water. For example, one leading supermarket recently sold two-litre bottles of strong cider for only £1 – a staggering 50 pence per litre. As the representative of a responsible industry, Pubs of Ulster finds this completely unacceptable and believes this practice cannot continue.
“That is why Pubs of Ulster has been at the forefront of calls for the introduction of minimum pricing in Northern Ireland for the last number of years. We have been working closely with Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland and Health Minister Edwin Poots to bring about minimum pricing in Northern Ireland and we have been greatly encouraged by the Health Minister’s commitment to introduce the measure by 2013. We must stress however that the introduction of minimum pricing will not hit the moderate drinker, as they will only pay an additional £8.00 per year more on alcohol under any new measures.
As well as setting a minimum price for alcohol, Pubs of Ulster is also calling upon government to introduce a social responsibility levy for supermarkets to bring about greater equality in the system.
“Pubs are the only licensed premises that already pay a substantial social levy due to the current commercial rating system which means that pub property rates are an average of 30 per cent higher compared to any other commercial property, including other sectors of the licensed trade,” he concluded.