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UK: Scotland knocks back critics of minimum pricing on alcohol

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Scotland's Government is ignoring advice from competition officials and intends to press ahead with its plan to set a minimum price on alcoholic drinks, claiming the policy could save hundreds of lives every year.

Setting a base price of 40p per unit of alcohol in drinks could cut alcohol-related deaths by nearly a fifth within ten years, said the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) today (28 September).

Minimum pricing will reduce deaths by 70 in its first year and by 370 per year after a decade in operation, said the Government, citing research conducted by the University of Sheffield. It will also lead to 30,000 fewer 'absentee' days from work every year.

Publication of the research indicates that the SNP intends to press on with minimum pricing, despite open criticism of the plan from the Office of Fair Trading and warnings from the industry that the policy will lead to legal challenges.

"It's now widely recognised that excessive alcohol consumption across society - fanned by rock-bottom pricing - is one of the biggest threats to Scottish public health," said Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon.

Her comments come as the SNP prepares to publish its Alcohol Health Bill, which is also set to propose significant curbs on drinks promotions and is expected to call for a social responsibility levy on drinks firms, to help cover the cost of alcohol misuse.

Several senior health professionals support minimum pricing.

"I've got to admit that initially I was sceptical about minimum pricing, but when you look at the facts, it becomes a no-brainer," said Scotland's chief medical officer, Dr Harry Burns. "It's actually a very targeted policy, because it basically affects people who are drinking above sensible limits and choosing the cheapest products."

Drinks industry trade bodies remain staunchly opposed to minimum pricing, warning it is a quick-fix solution to a complex problem and one that will harm the majority of sensible consumers.

just-drinks understands that some drinks firms, including Molson Coors and A-B InBev, are willing to consider the policy, however.


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