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Scotland sets minimum unit price for alcohol

01 March 2018

Ministers have made a decision to set the minimum price of alcohol in Scotland at 50p a unit despite warnings that the policy will encourage black market sales and cross-border smuggling.

The consultation found nearly three quarters (74.3 per cent) in favour of a 50p minimum unit price, although some organisations called for it to be higher.

Following last year's Supreme Court ruling, SWA chief executive Karen Betts said: "We will now look to the Scottish and United Kingdom governments to support the industry against the negative effects of trade barriers being raised in overseas markets that discriminate against Scotch whisky as a outcome of minimum pricing, and to argue for fair competition on our behalf".

But scientists at the Royal Society of Edinburgh said setting minimum pricing at 70p would "reflect a greater degree of ambition".

In November, the UK Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) to prevent the measures from going ahead, following a five-year legal battle. Minimum unit pricing will create a price differential between the production cost of a product and its retail price well in excess of the retailer margin.

An analysis of consultation responses said "a minimum unit price of 50p per unit provides a proportionate response to tackling alcohol misuse, as it strikes a reasonable balance between public health and social benefits and intervention in the market".

The recommended price of 50p will now be presented to the Scottish Parliament for final approval. The industry is basing its preparations for minimum unit price on the basis that the price will be 50p.

The plans - which will be introduced in May - mean the price of the cheapest bottle of red wine containing 9.4 units of alcohol will rise to £4.69, a four-pack of 500ml cans of 4% lager (eight units) will cost £4 and a 70cl bottle of whisky (28 units of alcohol) could not be sold for less than £14.

Willie Rennie, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, also called for a 60p rate, saying inflation has "eroded the value of the original minimum price".

The health campaigners argued: "This would increase the price of the very cheapest drinks, such as "white cider" and supermarket own-brand vodkas to an extent that would significantly impact the most harmful drinkers".

Scotland sets minimum unit price for alcohol