Supermarkets and shops will be forced to raise their prices under the proposal

Supermarkets and shops will be forced to raise their prices under the proposal

The Scottish government has today (May 14) confirmed it intends to set a minimum alcohol price of GBP0.50 (US$0.80) per unit – GBP0.05 higher than previously proposed.

However, the announcement has provoked fresh criticism from the drinks industry. The ruling SNP government had suggested the level should be GBP0.45 per unit in 2010, but said the increase to GBP0.50 was to take account of inflation. 

Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, who confirmed the plan while visiting Glasgow Royal Infirmary today, said: "It's no coincidence that, as affordability has increased, alcohol-related hospital admissions have quadrupled, and it is shocking that half of our prisoners now say they were drunk when they committed the offence. It's time for this to stop.

"Introducing a minimum price per unit will enable us to tackle these problems, given the clear link between affordability and consumption.”

It is estimated the move will make the ­cheapest bottle of wine GBP4.69, while a four-pack of lager would cost at least GBP3.52.

However, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association said a GBP0.50 minimum would “punish the majority of responsible consumers with higher prices, hitting the poorest hardest and will do nothing to tackle the root causes of alcohol misuse”.

Interim chief executive Gavin Partington said: "The Government's own report shows that 73% of all alcohol prices in the off-trade would rise overnight as a result of a GBP0.50 minimum unit price. That means that a bottle of wine currently selling for GBP3.33 would rise in price to GBP5.06 and a bottle of vodka from GBP11.10 to GBP13.13.”

He added: “Rather than penalising the responsible majority, we believe that alcohol policy should be targeted at problem drinkers.”

Meanwhile, brewer Molson Coors, which had previously supported minimum pricing “in principle”, suggested GBP0.50 is too high. A spokesman said: “We believe the proposed level of GBP0.50 per unit is out of proportion with the Scottish government’s 'targeted policy' commitment to address alcohol harm however we welcome their commitment to review its impact.”

Minimum pricing in Scotland is part of an Alcohol Bill that will start the final stage of its parliamentary process shortly, the government said. A minimum price will be as a condition of a licence for all retailers.

Meanwhile, a GBP0.40 minimum price has been proposed for England and Wales, after backing from Prime Minister David Cameron earlier this year.