Scots Wha Hae

The battle to screw drinkers north of the border gathers pace aplenty. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s Health Minister has proposed a 45p minimum price per alcohol unit. Looking suitably miserable-if anyone needs a drink she does-she claimed the measure was needed to stop Scots “drinking themselves into an early grave”.

The 45p limit is higher than expected and, sensibly, opposition parties have vowed to reject the proposal. Labour have argued the measure would result in a £140 million windfall for major supermarkets chains, while the drinks industry claimed it would unfairly target the poorest families.

Under her proposals, a two-litre bottle of Tesco cider would jump from £1.32 to £3.78, whilst the price of a bottle of Asda’s own label vodka would rise from £7.97 to £11.81. However, although the price of major branded lagers such as Stella Artois, Carlsberg and Tennent’s would also rise, albeit by very little, the overwhelming majority of branded drinks are already sold for more than the 45p minimum unit price.

Still Ms Sturgeon remains fervent in her belief and saves the big guns for last. Not only would it bring “significant” health benefits, including 50 fewer alcohol-related deaths in the first year, 1,200 fewer hospital admissions, it would also save the Scottish NHS £5.5M.

Move this on 10 years and things look even better. There would be 225 fewer deaths per year, 4,200 fewer hospital admissions annually and an £83 million reduction in health costs over the decade.

Wow. Fantastic. Amazing. Who could possibly argue with those figures? No one. Except...they are of course complete nonsense and seem to come straight from the pages of a Harry Potter novel. These projections conveniently mirror her goals and are a blatant attempt at self-justification. They lack any credible foundation and do not stand up to independent scrutiny.

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour health spokesman, also hit the nail on the head with: “Minimum unit pricing is effectively a tax on the poor paid directly to the shareholders of the big supermarkets.”

But last word perhaps should go to Gavin Partington, spokesman for the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. He summed up the futility of the whole idea. “Surely ministers cannot believe that making a hazardous drinker pay an extra £1.08 per week is going to solve the problem.”


Curmudgeon said…
In reality, a lot of well-known brands are sold at less than 45p/unit in the off-trade, especially when you take into account discounts and special offers. And, according to this report, the average price of a bottle of wine in a supermarket is £4.08, whereas with a 45p/unit minimum price, a bottle of 13% ABV wine would have to cost at least £4.39. It might not be a huge increase for most consumers, but I would say the average transaction price in the off-trade is less than 40p/unit, so this would push up most drinks costs. As said, it is effectively a tax on the poor - and it betrays an extremely patronising attitude towards the poor as well.
RedNev said…
I hate to get political (did I really write that?), but then I am red: the ruling classes have for centuries feared the ordinary people, and especially their behaviour when drunk, because they are then least controllable. There are tracts from Elizabeth I's time that presage the current moral panic in the ruling classes in hitting the stratosphere when the working classes are drinking to "excess".

It is the job of Governments to inform us of the risks and then let us take our choices - it is not their job to impose their choices upon us. There cannot be many adults who don't know that excessive drinking can cause health problems, so presumably they have made their own decisions for themselves.

As for alcoholism, that is an illness, not a self-indulgence, and no amount of taxation will keep an alcoholic from his/her fix.

Politicians have no right to give us the information and then tell us our choices are wrong - that us up to us.

Besides, don't we live in a free market economy? You can't have minimum pricing and a free market. Funny how these free marketeers become completely confused politically when it comes to so-called binge drinking. Not that our politicians do any of that themselves, of course, in their bars subsidised by us taxpayers.
RedNev said…
I've just thought ~ perhaps politicians' confused and inconsistent thinking about alcohol is a RESULT of the subsidised alcohol in Palace of Westminster bars.
Cooking Lager said…
It isn't just cheap booze these supermarkets flog. Sainsbury's have half price cheese strings on offer at the moment. Full of calories and no doubt making kids fat.

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