Scotland may be already seeing benefit of minimum alcohol unit pricing – leader comment

There’s no denying that Scotland has a drink problem. Official health service advice is that people should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. In Scotland last year, the average person bought 19 units a week.

Scots alcohol purchases have fallen to the lowest level in quarter of a century (Picture: John Devlin)

This statistic may be shocking to some, but it is actually good news as it’s the lowest figure since records began in 1994.

For some, the figures are a sign that the controversial introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol last year may be having an effect. If so, only time will tell whether it is a sustained one, but harnessing market forces in this way can sometimes achieve significant societal change, as plastic bag charges have demonstrated.

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Dr Lewis Morrison, of BMA Scotland, said it was “extremely encouraging” to see results like this in the first year of minimum pricing, saying he hoped the country was at the beginning of a “substantial change in Scotland’s damaging relationship with alcohol”.

Given the number of deaths that are “wholly attributable” to alcohol is still rising – with 1,120 in 2017 – that is surely a sentiment we can all share.