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Health / Wishart happy with proposal to raise minimum unit price of alcohol

A PROPOSAL to increase the minimum unit price of alcohol in Scotland by 15 pence has been welcomed by Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart.

The proposal is part of a Scottish Government consultation on the minimum unit pricing (MUP) legislation.

The aim of setting a minimum alcohol unit cost of 50p was to make sure drink was sold at a “sensible price”, and to discourage harmful alcohol use especially with cheaper brands.

But the government has raised the idea of raising the minimum unit cost to 65p – saying the proposals “strike the right balance” between public health benefits and any effects on the drink sector.

Shetland MSP Wishart said: “Scottish Liberal Democrats were the first party to call for this change.

“We know that more than 20 people a week are dying in Scotland due to alcohol and we also know Shetland has a history of alcohol misuse.

Lib Dem MSP Beatrice Wishart.

“Research suggests the MUP policy has become less effective because of inflation and the proposal should help prevent alcohol harms and reduce consumption.”

NHS Shetland’s alcohol and drug development officer Wendy McConnachie said MUP has proven to be a “successful policy intervention” when it comes to reducing deaths and hospital admissions.

“MUP is a preventative policy which is intended to reduce alcohol consumption in people who are drinking at harmful or hazardous levels, she said.

“The price increase however, also affects people who experience alcohol dependence and many people will not have reduced their consumption, so will be spending more on alcohol and spending less on food, bills etcetera.

“Therefore the price increase will be impacting families and children as well as individuals.

“It’s important that MUP is not seen as a silver bullet and that there is increased investment in alcohol support and treatment and support for families affected by alcohol, to mitigate the unintended consequences of MUP.

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“It is also important to work towards changing advertising and marketing and challenging the social norms around alcohol use.”

The Scottish Government’s drugs and alcohol policy minister Elena Whitham said the recent rise in alcohol-specific deaths “highlights the need for more to be done to tackle alcohol-related harm”.

“Our world-leading Minimum Unit Pricing policy is one of the measures we know can make a difference,” she said.

“Recent research estimated it has saved hundreds of lives, likely averted hundreds of alcohol-attributable hospital admissions each year – and also contributed to reducing health inequalities. It is one of a range of measures we have in place across prevention and treatment services to reduce alcohol harm.

“We believe the proposals set out in this consultation strike a reasonable balance between public health benefits and any effects on the alcoholic drinks market and subsequent impact on consumers, but we want to hear from all sides and urge everyone to take the time to respond.”

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