Scotland is to become one of the first countries in the world to introduce minimum alcohol pricing. Picture: Alon Skuy
INTERNATIONAL - Scotland is to become one of the first countries in the world to introduce minimum alcohol pricing in an attempt to tackle a worsening public health problem with binge drinking.

Britain’s Supreme Court announced the landmark move that ends a five-year legal battle in which the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), the industry lobby, lost an appeal.

Scotland is famous for whisky production, but the price change will target cheap, strong alcohol favoured by binge drinkers, experts said.

The British drinks industry is already grappling with an uncertain outlook after Britain’s exit from the EU. The SWA called for government help to overcome trade barriers and protect jobs in Scotland.

Alcohol-related deaths in Scotland have risen 10percent since 2015 and the government says Scotland’s troubled relationship with drink is significantly worse than the rest of the UK, as 17percent more alcohol was sold per adult in Scotland than in England and Wales in 2016.

“Minimum unit pricing is effective because it targets the kind of drinking most likely to lead to the greatest harm. The price of a pint in the pub won’t change, but the price of strong white ciders and own brand spirits that are mainly bought by dependent drinkers will rise markedly,” said Alcohol Focus Scotland, a charity.

The Scottish government has prepared for the introduction of a minimum preferred price per unit of 50pence (R9.46) per unit.

As a result, four 440ml cans of 5percent strength lager would cost at least £4.40 (R83.25), a 12 percent alcohol bottle of wine would cost at least £4.50, and a 700ml bottle of whisky could not be sold for less than £14. The cheapest drink to be available in the UK is just 16p per unit.

“Given the clear and proven link between consumption and harm, minimum pricing is the most effective and efficient way to tackle the cheap, high-strength alcohol that causes so much damage to so many families,” Scottish health minister Shona Robison said. 

- REUTERS