Health report highlights alcohol pricing gulf

Comment by Gillian McKenzie

It seems barely a week goes by without the publication of a report about alcohol.

Last week it was the turn of NHS Health Scotland, which released its ‘Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy’ report.

Much of the study’s contents would have come as no great surprise to many in the on-trade; almost three quarters of the alcohol sold in Scotland last year was sold in supermarkets and off-sales, more than half of the alcohol sold in the off-trade was sold at less than 50p per unit, and the average price per unit in the off-trade was 52p compared to £1.66 in the on-trade.

That the report was published a week before the European Court of Justice was due to deliver an opinion on Scottish Government legislation to introduce a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol – ahead of a full judgement later this year – was timely to say the least.

A decision on minimum pricing has been a long time coming.

The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act was passed back in 2012 but its implementation has been delayed due to a legal challenge by opponents, which include the Scotch Whisky Association.

Meanwhile, groups like the SLTA – a long-time supporter of minimum pricing – have been working hard to put forward the case in support of such a measure.

No one is suggesting minimum pricing is a silver bullet. But many think a level pegging – to address the sort of price differentials in the NHS report – would be a step in the right direction.