Alcohol to Cost 50p Per Unit in Scotland When Minimum Price Law Comes Into Effect in May

Wednesday 28th February 2018

The Scottish government have confirmed that the minimum price for a unit of alcohol in Scotland will be 50 pence per litre, after ministers won a five year legal battle.

The implementation will be the first of its kind in the UK and is aimed to reduce the intake of alcohol, targeting cheap strong alcohol. The legislation actually received approval in Holyrood in 2012, however a lengthy legal challenge made by the Scotch Whisky Association and others delayed any attempts to roll it out for years.

After the objections raised by the SWA were rejected by the Supreme Court, minimum pricing faced a consultation, specifically on the minimum price per unit that would be set. After consultation, 50p was determined to be the minimum price to be used. The issue is reducing binge drinking intake without disproportionately affecting other alcohol drinkers, and was the figure originally suggested back in 2012.

The minimum price guideline is set at per unit, which is described as 10ml of pure alcohol. This in practice means either a 25ml shot of spirits, half a pint of 4% beer or a small glass of red wine. This means that the minimum price for a 75 cl bottle of wine will be at least £4.69 for instance, and a 70 cl bottle of whisky would cost at least £14 under the new guidelines.

The main targets of this would therefore be cheap spirits and high strength beers and ciders. Indeed, a super strength lager would be £1.90, and a 3 litre bottle of White Lightning or another similarly super strength cider could cost £11.25.

Interestingly, the increased price would go to the retailer, unlike proposals by the SWA, which suggested tax or excise duty would be an effective way to cut the issues with problem drinking, although analysis undertaken by the Sheffield Alcohol Research group suggests that a much larger tax (between 33% and 47%) would be required to have the same effect.

Questions have been raised about how the policy will be achieved, specifically about the minimum price and what happens to it. The Liberal Democrats and Greens both have called for the minimum to be 60p per unit, whilst Scottish Labour have requested that the money raised by minimum pricing should go to the state to fund initiatives to help problem drinkers.

Alcohol abuse is a growing concern, with up to 1.1 million estimated hospital admissions relating to alcohol in 2015-16, and 6,800 deaths. As such, many ideas have been suggested for tackling alcohol, especially in Scotland where there were 54% more alcohol related deaths per week than in England and Wales. Minimum pricing has been suggested a number of times, although with concerns about the legality of such a scheme. With the Supreme Court of the UK giving the all clear, with Wales preparing to impose a similar 50p minimum alcohol price.