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Health short-changed over alcohol prices
Alcohol sold for under 20p per unit
In Scotland a man can buy a week’s worth of his sensible drinking guidelines amount for less than £5; a figure Health Secretary Alex Neil has branded “too cheap”.
Mr Neil was speaking ahead of next week’s appeal hearing on minimum unit pricing at the Court of Session.
Figures show alcohol is being sold for less than 20 pence a unit in Scotland.
For example, it is possible to buy 3 litres of branded high strength cider, around 22 units – more than the guidelines recommend for a man for a whole week - for £4.50.
In addition, 12 cans of lager (21 units) are being sold for £8, while 26 units of supermarket brand vodka is available for less than £11.
Mr Neil insisted that a minimum unit price of 50p would make a significant difference towards tackling misuse and alcohol-related harm.
Mr Neil said: “I am absolutely determined to tackle the problems caused by Scotland’s difficult relationship with alcohol.
"Each week on average in Scotland, alcohol misuse is responsible for more than 20 deaths and 700 hospital admissions. Being able to buy 20 units of alcohol for the change in your pocket is just unacceptable. It shows that this kind of high-strength alcohol – the type which does much of the damage - has become far too cheap in Scotland.
“Time and time again the research proves that affordability is the key factor in the misuse of alcohol and that the most effective way to tackle this is by setting a minimum unit price. This is about targeting the cheap drink that causes so much harm within communities, often in the most deprived areas of Scotland.
“Minimum pricing would begin saving lives within months of its introduction and while it is regrettable that the policy is being subject to delays as a result of the legal challenge, the Scottish Government remains absolutely committed to bringing in legislation that would set the minimum price for a unit of alcohol at 50p.”
The policy to introduce minimum unit pricing is currently subject to an appeal by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and the hearing is due to begin next week, February 6. The appeal follows a decision last May by Lord Doherty which found overwhelmingly in the Scottish Government’s favour in respect of minimum unit pricing of alcohol.
The third annual report on Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy published in December 2013 shows that 60 per cent of off-trade alcohol sold in Scotland in 2012 was sold at below 50p per unit and that despite falls between 2007 and 2011 affordability remain high compared to the 1990s and early 2000s.
The report also shows that per adult sales of alcohol in Scotland have been 19-21 per cent higher than in England and Wales over the past five years, mainly due to higher off-trade sales in Scotland, particularly spirits.