The question of minimum alcohol pricing continues to cause anger, debate and conjecture ahead of the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce the legislation which could be in place as early as 1 April 2014. Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon is relentless in her views that something has to be done about Scotland’s “booze culture” and believes minimum pricing may be the way forward in dealing with spiralling social depravation and most importantly from the Government’s perspective, the colossal £110 million NHS bill due to excessive alcohol consumption. From a pragmatic standpoint the upshot of minimum alcohol pricing would mean a typical bottle of wine would cost just under £4.70 with the cost of a bottle of whisky increasing to £14.
While I remain highly sceptical of the proposals, it is clear to see that the problem has to be tackled. Scotland is the UK’s “booze” capital and binge drinking isn’t just a small problem, it’s worryingly a way of life for some of our young teenagers. If the culture remains the same then the figures from the Government are only going to get worse and our reputation as a nation will continue to be slowly clouded by overindulgence in alcohol. Like many, I personally enjoy a few drinks at the weekend – I think this is a natural social leisure time activity and when done in moderation is good to keep our Scots “spirits” high.
So is minimum pricing the best answer to tip the balance from excess to moderation? The truth is I don’t know and I can’t make a convincing case either way. The cynic in me believes that it won’t work. In 2003 the average price of a pint of beer cost around £2.10. Dramatic inflation and tax rises mean that the same pint of beer on average now costs £3.24. While statistics show a small decline in the number of pints consumed between those dates, a massive 54% increase in the cost hasn’t deterred too many people and I fear it will be the same outcome if this legislation comes into force next year
Without doubt it’s encouraging to see the Government trying to act. Even though it will hit me personally in the pocket, I am happy to support the cause and hope that my doubts are unfounded.