Minimum alcohol pricing comes into effect in Scotland

Minimum alcohol pricing - Scotland

Towards the end of 2017, we discussed how Scotland was in the process of trying to implement minimum pricing for alcohol products. A pricing plan had originally been passed back in May 2012, but received various objections with many arguing that there were other ways of achieving the government’s objectives. The legislation went as far the UK Supreme Court, however a unanimous decision was reached with seven judges ruling in favour of the legislation, stating it did not breach European Union laws and was legal on health grounds.


From the 1st May, Scotland will begin a live experiment by introducing the legally enforced minimum price for all alcoholic drinks of 50p per unit. The overall aim of this price increase is to try and tackle the problem of chronic alcohol abuse, which is particularly widespread across the UK. With the policy due to come into effect in Scotland, other parts of the UK are closely watching to see how the situation develops. Similar legislation is currently being worked on in Wales, and is due to get royal assent later this summer. Wales are also considering setting a higher minimum price, of 60p or more per unit. In Northern Ireland, minimum pricing was also under consideration before government collapsed last year.

Government in the Republic of Ireland are also keen to see how the legislation impacts Scotland, as is the Home Office in London; it is due to reconsider the policy in a couple of years. Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “There are more than 23,000 deaths in a year in England linked to alcohol, and many of the poorest and most vulnerable sections of society. Any delay in implementing minimum unit pricing in England will only cost lives and lead to unnecessary alcohol-related harm.”


In Scotland, alcohol misuse causes a staggering 700 hospital admissions and 22 deaths each week. Ministers in Scotland claim the introduction of the policy will save approximately 400 lives over the next five years and lead to roughly 8,000 fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions. It is hoped that this shift in legislation will reduce pressures placed on health services associated with alcohol consumption. Long term, it aims to have a reduction in alcohol deaths.

Nicola Sturgeon, who has fought opposition to the legislation, believes the increase in minimum pricing will eventually become a widely accepted idea. She said, “Last year, UK chief medical officers published new alcohol guidelines, recommending that both men and women drink no more than 14 units per week. In Scotland, those 14 units can be currently bought for just £2.52.”

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