September 2, 2010 / 11:26 AM / 8 years ago

Scotland announces minimum price for alcohol

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Scotland’s government announced on Thursday that its planned minimum price for alcohol would be set at 45 pence per unit, meaning a bottle of wine would cost at least 4.23 pounds ($6.52) and a bottle of whisky 12.60 pounds.

A customer poses for the camera with a pint of beer in a public house in Leeds, northern England October 13, 2008. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

The minority Scottish National Party administration announced last year that it intended to bring in a minimum price to curb alcohol consumption, although opposition parties have objected, meaning the plans could face a struggle to become law.

Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the government proposed a minimum price of 45p, which she argued would lead to 225 fewer deaths after a decade along with a saving of 83 million pounds in health care costs.

“For too long, too many Scots have been drinking themselves into an early grave,” she said.

“Our proposals have already won the backing from respected health professionals at home and abroad and I hope, for the sake of our nation’s health, they will also win the backing of the Scottish Parliament.”

She said currently a man could exceed his recommended weekly limit for less than 3.50 pounds.

“Getting the price right is vital for minimum pricing to work — too low and it will simply be ineffective. After careful consideration, we believe that 45p per unit is the right price.”

The change would affect supermarket-branded alcohol more than established brands. It would mean a crate of 4.5 abv lager containing 24 bottles of 330ml would cost at least 16.20 pounds.

Senior health officials have backed calls for minimum pricing, saying it would help address Britain’s binge drinking problem.

The previous Labour government in London ruled out any such move, but the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition said it would ban the sale of alcohol below cost price.

It also said it would review taxation and pricing to tackle binge drinking without unfairly penalizing responsible drinkers, pubs and local industries.

“Scotland has an unenviable reputation when it comes to alcohol,” said Dr Harry Burns, Scotland’s chief medical officer.

“We are sadly world class when it come to damaging our health through heavy drinking. Minimum pricing, as part of a package of wider measures, can help us to redress the balance when it comes to our unhealthy relationship with alcohol.”

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison

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