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Minimum Price for Alcohol Units: How Will it Affect You?

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 17 May 2013 | comments*Discuss
Alcohol Unit Minimum Price Scottish

Plans to stem the tide of binge drinking by hitting drinkers right where they’ll feel it the most – in the pocket – have now been defeated. The Scottish government had intended to outlaw the vast numbers of cheap deals on alcohol available in supermarkets by introducing a minimum price per unit for alcohol, effectively leading to a higher cost for drinks with a higher alcohol level.

The proposals were supported by the Scottish National Party, who claimed that introducing a policy such as this could save the Scottish government around £700million over ten years, mostly because of a reduction in alcohol-related ill-health. Economists had suggested that the price policy could have benefited the Scottish economy to the tune of an extra £236million a year. Critics of the scheme said that all the price changes would have done was sent hundreds of thousands of Scottish drinkers across the border in search of cheap booze in England, reminiscent of the nineties ‘booze cruise’ phenomenon.

The policy was supported by the medical profession, but plans to bring in a minimum price per unit in Scotland were left out of the new legislation. The bill will, however, ban what’s described as ‘irresponsible drink promotions’.

The unanimously passed also paved the way for a ‘social responsibility fee’ for alcohol sellers.

How will a Minimum Price for Alcohol Work?

There are still ten local authorities trying to get a minimum price introduced for alcohol by way of local bye laws. Most of these authorities are in the Manchester area.

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) is spearheading the campaign which has also been endorsed by local authorities throughoutA Cheshire and Merseyside.

Health chiefs in Liverpool and Cheshire have also set up their own a joint working group to look into the possibility of minimum pricing, with planned consultations with the public.

The local authority schemes have been given tacit approval by Prime Minister David Cameron, and with government support they could well be introduced across the rest of the country if they prove to have a beneficial effect on levels of binge drinking.

How Much Will it Cost?

In Scotland, where the price per unit of alcohol was to be set at 45p, the effect would have forced up prices quite substantially. For example, where a supermarket could have been offering 24 cans of 4 per cent lager for £9 previously, a ‘price per unit’ law would hike the price up to at least £16.72. Teenager’s favourite – a two-litre bottle of supermarket’s own brand cider would cost three times a s much if charges by the unit o alcohol, and cost £3.80 instead of £1.32, and for the spirit drinkers the news is just as expensive because an own-brand vodka would cost nearly £4 more, going from £8 to £11.80.

Supermarkets in the UK and Scotland have been arguing against the introduction of the policy, on the grounds that it’s likely to punish sensible customers.

Morrison’s director of corporate affairs said that the supermarket did not support a minimum unit price per unit at all as it would only punish their customers, while the plans attracted criticism from the Scotch Whisky Association, who said that the policy would 'significantly damage' the industry.

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