MSPs back 50p minimum unit price for alcohol

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MSPs have backed a 50p minimum unit price for alcohol, making Scotland the first country in the world to introduce the policy.

The new unit price will come into effect on May 1 following the unanimous vote at the Scottish Parliament.

MSPs have backed a 50p minimum unit price for alcohol. Picture: John Devlin

MSPs have backed a 50p minimum unit price for alcohol. Picture: John Devlin

Legislation to implement minimum pricing was approved at Holyrood in 2012, but only cleared legal challenges in November 2017.

Now MSPs have voted on the level at which the price is set.

Health Secretary Shona Robison previously said 50p is the “right rate”, and was backed by Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee.

Research predicts a 50p minimum unit price will lead to 392 fewer alcohol-related deaths and more than 8,000 fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions.

Almost three-quarters (74.3%) of those who took part in the Scottish Government’s consultation backed minimum pricing at this level but some organisations - including the Scottish Liberal Democrats - called for it to be higher.

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: “While this legislation will help to discourage the misuse of alcohol, inflation eroded the value of the original minimum price during the years that this policy has been caught up in the courts.

“That is one of the reasons why Scottish Liberal Democrats pressed the Scottish Government to introduce a higher rate than the 50p passed today.

“In light of this missed opportunity, the Scottish Government must keep a close eye on the impact this price makes and be open to raising it in future.”

Ms Robison previously said the 50p rate “strikes a balance between public health and social benefits and intervention in the market”, however she pledged to keep it under review.

“We want to keep the price issue under review as we take matters forward but I’m very keen given the journey we’ve been on ... that we don’t have any further delay,” she said.