50p Unit Price For Alcohol: The Answer To Scotland’s Drinking Problem?

Scotland becomes the first country in the world to implement a minimum 50p per unit price for alcohol. Can it help tackle their drinking problem?

A new minimum pricing law has come into effect in Scotland as the price of alcohol has been set to a minimum of 50p per unit. Some cheap ciders, vodkas, and whiskeys will see a price increase of around 300% as a result of the law, which is designed to try and tackle Scotland’s drinking problem.

The Scottish Government has claimed the measure will save lives and reduce alcohol consumption. First minister Nicola Sturgeon said that “today is an important day for Scotland”

“Right now in Scotland you can drink the 14 units maximum recommended intake of alcohol (per week) for £2.50. That can’t be right and that’s what minimum pricing is seeking to change.”

Alcohol currently costs the Scottish health service around £267 million a year while alcohol-related crime costs Scotland £727 million a year. Will this new measure help improve the health of Scottish people and save hundreds of millions on avoidable, alcohol-related costs?

Glasgow city centre. Photo by Steven Law

Not enough

Speaking to The Sunday Herald, Betty Glen, an independent off-sales owner in Glasgow, said that her shop would no longer stock cheap ciders such as Frosty Jacks and Pulse.

“It is just to make it look like they are doing something about the drink problem. It won’t affect my customers. It won’t affect much of what I sell. I won’t order any more Frosty’s or Pulse. I didn’t sell a lot of it anyway.”

She went on to say that “They should look at why people drink in the first place rather than the price of the drink.”

Niall MacTag, a photographer who lives in Edinburgh told The Versed that “more needs to be done to curb advertising of alcohol as well as treating those with alcohol dependencies.”

“The 10 o’clock licence change that came in years ago doesn’t seem to have helped much. Instead of buying less alcohol, people get around it by buying in bulk before 10pm.”

He added that “I personally don’t think that someone who drinks £2.50 bottle of cider will now give up drinking because it costs £7.50”

This is the first time a law of its kind has been rolled out across a whole country, although similar measures have been taken on a regional scale in the past.

The new measure is likely to be introduced across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Photo by Fabio Alves

Worth a shot?

Sturgeon, a self-professed “moderate” drinker, is strongly in favour of the measure. Posting to her Twitter account she said that “Today, Scotland becomes the first country in the world to implement minimum unit pricing in an attempt to reduce the significant harm of strong, low-cost alcohol”

“After many years of parliamentary and legal hurdles, today we implement a policy that experts from doctors, nurses, the police, public health experts all say will reduce the damage that alcohol misuse does to our country”

Richard, who’s worked as a GP for 24 years, said in a video posted to Scot Gov Health’s Twitter, “I see alcohol-related illness, not just every working day, but every working hour”.

Richard tells of a patient he had a few years ago who eventually died as a result of alcoholic liver disease at the age of just 24. “She had been drinking four or five litres of strong white cider for several years. She was able to do that be spending about £5 per day”

“I think it’s very likely that minimum unit price will make a significant improvement in the nation’s health” he said.

The Scottish government has said that the 50p unit price will save 58 lives in its first year and also reduce alcohol-related admissions to hospital by 1,300. Just south of the border, Newcastle could be the first major city in England to adopt the pricing measure. Similar measures are expected to follow in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Start the discussion

to comment