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Scotland Introduces Minimum Alcohol Prices, Campaigners Push for Same Law in England

BARRHEAD, SCOTLAND - JUNE 02: SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has a ping of beer as she takes a tour of Kelburn Brewery while campaigning for the General Election on June 2, 2017 in Barrhead, East Renfrewshire, Scotland. Polls are showing the SNP out in front and the Conservatives set to …
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

Scotland has become the first country in the world to introduce minimum alcohol prices and campaigners are pushing to replicate the law in England.

Retailers must ensure that a unit of alcohol is not priced below 50p, and the Scottish government has warned pubs and shops that any infringement of the Alcohol Minimum Pricing Act could result in the loss of licences.

The Act, first voted into the statute books by Scottish MSPs in 2012, was challenged by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA). But in November 2017, Supreme Court judges ruled the legislation did not breach European Union law.

“Scotland is the first country in the world being bold enough and brave enough to introduce minimum unit pricing,” Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told AFP on Tuesday.

Noting that Northern Ireland and Wales are planning to introduce similar legislation, Ms. Sturgeon added: “I think we will see countries across Europe and further afield look to replicate what has been done here in Scotland.”

The Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA), a group of more than 50 medical organisations including the British Medical Association and Royal College of GPs, launched a campaign with homeless charity Thames Reach on Tuesday to push Westminster to pass similar legislation in England.

“Any delay in implementing MUP in England will only cost lives and lead to unnecessary alcohol-related harm. We urge the Westminster Government to act now,” AHA Chairman Sir Ian Gilmore said.

Scotland introduced the legislation in an attempt to combat the country’s alcoholism. Alcohol-linked deaths are 54 per cent higher in Scotland than the England and Wales, with an average of 22 people a week dying from alcohol-related causes.

 

The legislation has been criticised by small government campaigners who say that it will only serve as a levy on the poor and will not in itself solve Scotland’s alcoholism problems.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that heavy drinkers do buy cheaper alcohol, but they also respond less strongly to price increases.

The neoliberal think tank Adam Smith Institute has also cited research on the lack of effectiveness of minimum pricing on alcohol addiction and project the legislation will have “virtually no effect on problem drinking”.

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