The Scottish Government has formally unveiled plans to set a 50p-per-unit minimum price for alcohol, in a bid curb binge drinking and relieve the strain on the NHS.
The move, backed by the BMA, was announced by Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon during a visit to a gastroenterology ward at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where 80 per cent of patients are treated for illnesses caused by alcohol misuse.
Ms Sturgeon said that the price set is the equivalent of the 45p per unit set in 2010 after taking inflation into account.
Ministers in England have tabled similar plans to introduce a minimum price of 40p per unit of alcohol south of the border, but Scotland is the first UK nation to formally launch the policy.
Dr Brian Keighley, chair of the BMA in Scotland, said estimates suggest that the new minimum price could prevent at least 8,600 alcohol-related hospital admissions and deaths in Scotland.
He said supermarkets selling high alcohol products such as vodka and ciders at ‘ridiculously’ cheap prices were part of the problem.
He added: ‘The trend for cheap alcohol and excessive consumption has a human cost. Alcohol related illness causes one death every three hours in Scotland and the total healthcare costs are more than £268 million. This increasing cost could cripple the NHS with a financial burden that is no longer sustainable, especially in the current financial climate.’
‘A minimum price, as part of a wider strategy, could end Scotland’s heavy drinking culture and I am proud that Scotland’s politicians are once again leading the world on public health policy.’