Retailers body The Fed has called on ministers to reject a hefty rise to over 80p in minimum alcohol pricing, as floated in a Scottish government survey issued to the drinks industry.
The potential new threshold would represent a major increase from the current level of 50p per unit of alcohol. It is among a range of options in the survey including a price of below 50p, 60p, 70p and 80p.
Hussan Lal, President of the Fed in Scotland said, “We can see the argument for increasing the price which has been in place for five years, a time of inflation. However over 80p is over the top. This could price out those who look forward to a beer or a glass of wine. It would be particularly hard when family budgets are already badly squeezed by the cost of living crisis.”
The survey follows research from Public Health Scotland indicating the threshold of 50p has resulted in a decline of over 13 per cent in the death rate wholly attributable to alcohol and a drop of over 4 per cent in the number of hospital admissions with chronic alcohol conditions. The impact was largest in men and in those living in the 40 per cent most deprived areas in Scotland.
The Scottish Government is reviewing the evidence and considering whether to recommend to MSPs that the minimum pricing scheme continues and whether the price can be increased. Legislation for the scheme has a sunset clause that requires the Scottish Parliament to vote before May 2024 on whether or not the scheme will continue.
“We welcome any reduction in harmful levels of drinking. It undoubtedly blights many lives. However we feel that as Public Health Scotland has suggested, this scheme can only be part of the solution. Our members feel there needs to be highly effective campaigning to help change Scotland’s attitude towards drink and therapy for problem drinking needs to be much more widely available,” Lal added.
”My further concern is that harmful addictive consumption may not register in all studies. Members report that they believe some are simply stealing what they seek and some are turning to cheap drugs on the street.”
Retailers found that loss in sales was generally offset by an increase in price and has made smaller retailers more competitive with supermarkets.
The Scottish Government says that in general the scheme appears to have had no substantial detrimental impact on any part of the drinks industry as measured by the number of businesses and business units, jobs, turnover, the value of goods and output value.
Retailers with views on costs need to respond to the survey by July 23. https://forms.office.com/Pages/ResponsePage.aspx?id=R3T3DoMQ7E24nyfHZQdoQLTMRslDypFBhOC12N6mnUxUQlIwMTlHMFc1RjhQVThMVzAzVlNDWE84Ui4u