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At Rehab 4 Alcoholism, we have been strong supporters of the minimum unit pricing concept for many years. We have followed the Scottish Government's attempt to enact this law for well over three years. We've written about this issue on several occassions.
This law has been delayed because Scotland's powerful Scotch Whisky Association has fought the passing of the law with every means necessary, including an appeal to the European Court of Justice.
We considered this to be delay tactics, and we congratulate the Scottish Government for all its hard work in ensuring this lifesaving law has finally made it to the statute books.
The effect of minimum unit pricing has been to increase the price of cheap yet powerful alcoholic drinks. Cheap own-brand spirits and white ciders that are often consumed by those affected by alcoholism will see the greatest price increases.
The Scottish Government aims to cut Scotland's high rate of alcohol abuse and thus extend thousands of lives in the process.
A two-litre bottle of white cider containing 7.5 abv will see a price increase from £2.50 up to £7.50. We feel this must be considered a victory for common sense, no matter what your political allegiances may lie.
If anything, we feel this price increase does not go far enough and perhaps reflects Scottish lawmakers reluctance to go 'too far' in taking on this country's powerful alcohol industry.
It's not only 'cheap' own brand labels that will be affected by this new law. Branded alcoholic drinks produced by Smirnoff, Tennent's and Famous Grouse will also see their prices rise as a direct result of this new law. The law will also prevent many branded labels from running special promotions on their products.
The law also tackles problems in how alcohol is bought and consumed in the 21st century. Unlike twenty or even ten years ago, much more of us choose to shun pubs and nightclubs by preferring to drink at home. This means around two-thirds of all alcohol is sold from shops and supermarkets.
Since pubs, nightclubs and restaurants charge a premium for alcoholic drinks, their prices will largely be unaffected by this new law.
For these businesses to be affected by minimum unit pricing, they will need to be selling a pint of beer for around £1.20 or a glass of wine for around £1.
It's also worth noting that minimum unit pricing is not a form of tax. Businesses affected by the law will be able to simply pocket the extra revenue as profit. Again, we feel this may be a sign that the Scottish Government are too soft when it comes to taxing the alcohol industry.
Accessing the damage caused by problem drinking
If you disagree with this new law, then please consider the impact alcohol abuse inflicts on Scotland. It's said Scotland's alcohol problem costs the taxpayer around £3.6bn each year. It's also estimated that 22 people die due to alcohol abuse in Scotland each day. Furthermore, over 80% of assault victims treated at Scottish hospitals had been drinking when the assault took place.
The Scottish Government projects that these measures will save around 60 lives each year and ease the burden on hospitals by around 1,3000 admissions each year.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said these measures specifically target "hazardous and harmful drinkers".
She added that anyone in breach of this new law will have their licence to sell alcohol revolved and also face criminal proceedings.
The Scottish Government added a "sunset clause" to the legislation that will allow lawmakers to end minimum pricing in six years' time if these measures are found to be ineffective at tackling Scotland's alcohol problem.