Minimum alcohol pricing isn't as effective as we thought – scientists
NEW forecasts on the impact of minimum pricing show the legislation would be less effective than previously thought.
• Cheap alcohol deals are facing increasing levels of criticism. Picture: TSPL
The latest Scottish Government report shows the anticipated lower threshold of 40p per unit, combined with a ban on discount offers at off- licences, would cut drinking by 5.1 per cent.
It would also lead to 59 fewer deaths, 1,500 fewer hospital admissions and cut the cost of crime by 2.7 million each year.
The new report is based on "the Sheffield study", which has been the cornerstone of the Scottish Government's case for minimum pricing. It has been updated with newly available 2008 figures instead of ones from 2003.
Under the former study, a 40p minimum price and the off- licence ban was predicted to cut drinking by 5.4 per cent, hospital admissions by 1,600, and the cost of crime by 2.7m.
The Alcohol Bill, which is currently being debated by the health committee, already faces opposition from the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups, and must win over at least one to have any chance of becoming law.
Murdo Fraser, the Scottish Conservative deputy leader, said: "This backtracking from Sheffield University academics on the impact of the SNP's proposals for indiscriminate blanket minimum pricing is the most serious blow to these unpopular and probably illegal plans.
"The only evidence produced by the SNP so far to support their plans was the original Sheffield University study, the initial findings of which are today being watered down."
Jackie Baillie, health spokeswoman for Scottish Labour, added: "Nicola Sturgeon (the health secretary] needs to be honest with the public and name her price. She admits that it is impossible to determine whether minimum pricing is legal without knowing the price, but refuses to end the uncertainty.
"Does she agree with the SNP's sister party in Wales that it should be 50p per unit, or does she want it to be even higher? The health committee needs to know the answer to this basic question.
"As the Scottish Government's own study shows, there is very little evidence that it would be an effective way of dealing with Scotland's problems with alcohol abuse. They should dump it now."
Ms Sturgeon said: "Minimum pricing is part of our comprehensive strategy to tackle alcohol misuse. This report shows that minimum pricing coupled with a promotions ban could bring real and lasting benefits for health, our economy and our society."
A CRACKDOWN on alcohol sales to underage drinkers has led to convictions rising by two-thirds.
The number of licensees taken to court rose from 132 in 2007-8, to 211 in 2008-9, with convictions rising from 72 to 122, according to figures released to the Scottish Parliament.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We fully support police moves to clamp down on alcohol sold to under-18s. Effective enforcement of existing laws is essential to complement the Scottish Government's proposals for minimum pricing of alcohol."
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