Leader comment: Case for minimum alcohol price is made

More than seven years ago the Scottish Government first sought to introduce a minimum price for a unit of alcohol. More than four years ago Holyrood passed legislation to this effect.

More than two-thirds of spirits are currently sold below the minimum pricing.

And last month, after a lengthy legal battle, the Court of Session rejected industry arguments that the plan to set a minimum price at 50p per unit of alcohol was in breach of European law.

In pubs, supermarkets and off licences, little has changed. More than two-thirds of spirits currently sold is below the 50p per unit threshold, according to industry analysts Nielsen. More than two-thirds of beer is also below the threshold.

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Wine is by far the least affected. But blended Scotch on average will need to rise in price by 20 per cent to meet the threshold, while vodka will have to go up by 16.3 per cent.

For all the delays, frustration – and a likely consumer backlash – the health arguments are as strong as ever. Scots buy 20 per cent more alcohol on average than people in England or Wales. And alcohol is now 60 per cent more affordable than it was in 1980.

The health arguments for minimum pricing are formidable. One in four Scots drinkers are reckoned to drink at hazardous or harmful levels. And there were 1,150 alcohol-related deaths last year.

Little wonder the minimum pricing policy was backed by health professionals, the police, alcohol charities and sections of the drinks industry.

Of course there are doubts about how effective the minimum price policy will prove. But the case for action has prevailed – and minimum pricing should be introduced without further delay.