Public health leaders in England back Scottish Government’s plan to raise minimum price of alcohol

A group representing public health leaders in England has backed a rise in the minimum unit price for alcohol in Scotland to 65p.

The Association of Directors of Public Health North East – which covers the region with the worst alcohol harms south of the border – said it has watched the impact of the scheme with “huge interest and admiration”.

Scotland was the first country in the world to set a minimum price at which drink can be sold when the policy was introduced in May 2018.

Since then, alcohol has been sold at a minimum price of 50p per unit.

But a sunset clause in the legislation means the regulations will expire at the end of April, and ministers have been consulting on increasing the rate to 65p.

Hotly contested

The effectiveness of the scheme remains a hotly contested issue, with some questioning the government’s claims over the impact on the poorest Scots.

Groups representing the off-licence trade are opposed to any increase, while alcohol charities say the minimum price needs to be increased due to inflation.

Holyrood’s health committee will consider the government’s proposal on Tuesday.

Organisations want the minimum price of alcohol raised from 50p per unit to 65p, roughly in line with inflation. Image: Shutterstock

In a letter to MSPs, the Association of Directors of Public Health North East insisted a rise to 65p would “ensure that the full benefits of the policy were maintained over time”.

It said: “We are hugely supportive of Scottish Ministers’ proposal to continue and uprate MUP and agree with the level of at least 65 pence per unit.

“The evidence is clear that the policy has achieved its aim of reducing alcohol-related harm by both reducing population consumption and by targeting the consumption of people drinking at higher levels.

“It has also contributed to reducing alcohol-related health inequalities. Any negative unintended consequences have not been prevalent or typical.

“At a time when life-expectancy is reducing in some areas – particularly more deprived communities, including those in the North East – we urgently need policies which address the key drivers of non-communicable diseases, like cancer and cardio-vascular disease.

“MUP has been shown to be such a policy, and whilst it should be part of a wider package of measures to reduce alcohol consumption and harm, it must remain an essential cornerstone of the strategy in Scotland.”

Deaths at 15-year high

We previously reported how the government’s own data showed poorer people are now drinking a third more booze.

Meanwhile, alcohol-related deaths are at a 15-year high and there has been no statistically significant drop in hospital admissions.

But the government says research commended by internationally-renowned experts estimates MUP has saved hundreds of lives.

Emma Harper MSP.

SNP MSP Emma Harper – who sits on Holyrood’s health committee and is a registered Nurse – said the scheme has led to notable reductions in alcohol consumption, reduced health inequalities and less pressure on our health services.

She added: “Through bold policies and record investment, the SNP government is working to ensure that all Scots live healthy lives and is setting a proud example of what can be done – even within very limited powers.”

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