Readers' Letters: Minimum Unit Pricing is saving Scottish lives

The Scotsman’s response to Public Health Scotland’s latest report on the impact of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) on reducing alcohol harms in Scotland suggests that MUP should be abandoned because of an increase in sales of fortified wines such as Buckfast (15 November).
Far from being a failure, the 50p minimum unit price for alcohol is a winner and should be upped, says doctor (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)Far from being a failure, the 50p minimum unit price for alcohol is a winner and should be upped, says doctor (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Far from being a failure, the 50p minimum unit price for alcohol is a winner and should be upped, says doctor (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The focus risks missing the key finding of this research: MUP has successfully targeted the cheap, high strength products – such as high strength ciders – favoured by heavier drinkers who suffer the greatest harm. Buckfast is not and never has been cheap, and sales were increasing before the introduction of MUP. Even after the reported increase, sales of fortified wine only account for 4 per cent of total alcohol off-sales.

Far from being a “failing policy”, MUP has delivered an overall reduction in alcohol off-sales in Scotland of 3.5 per cent. In England, where there is no MUP, sales rose over the same period. Early indications suggest that MUP has also reduced harm with a reduction in alcohol-specific deaths of ten per cent in the first full year of operation. MUP’s effectiveness is reliant on the level at which it is set, and modelling suggests that 50p – proposed when MUP was passed into law in 2012 - is now too low to have the desired effect. Instead of abandoning the policy, Scotland should uprate MUP to a more effective level. This would help to reduce the tragically high toll of deaths because of alcohol in Scotland.

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Since its implementation in 2018, we have seen that MUP is an effective population-level measure to reduce alcohol harms and, contrary to your editorial, the new Public Health Scotland report supports this.

(Dr) Alastair MacGilchrist, Chair, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems & Alison Douglas, Chief Executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland


As was forecast would happen by many knowledgeable people, rather than cure the deep-seated alcohol problems in Scotland, the SNP’s minimum unit pricing policy in fact worsened the situation and merely hammered the moderate drinkers in our society.

It seems that reasonably priced but powerful Buckfast tonic wine sales have skyrocketed, almost doubling, as have sales of high-strength lager. Anyone who has been in any way associated with problem drinking and drinkers could have told the First Minister her new policy was counter-productive. But never one to pass up a good headline and instead think things through, she charged ahead and another wrong choice at the wrong time for the wrong reason came about. And we all must pay the price.

Alexander McKay, Edinburgh

Be intolerant

We are seeing a lot of behaviour causing disruption and damage to all aspects of society by self-appointed guardians of the truth, as they see it. Climate activists preventing emergency vehicles reaching hospitals and smashing their way into a bank in Glasgow, because they know they are right and those who do not spurn all fossil fuels right now are wrong. Let down 4x4 tyres in Edinburgh? Fine. That's because we are good and 4x4s and the people who own them are bad.

We see the same behaviour expressed by Islamists who also know that they are right and (again) everyone else is wrong. The end result is the same. Everyone else must be forced to accept their outlook, whether they like it or not.

This is only one step from invading the Ukraine because the Ukrainians are “Nazis”? That makes Russia “good” and the western-backed Ukrainians “bad”. Russia used to run things in Ukraine and wants to do so again. Russia also wants to run Poland, Hungary, Romania etc because Russia is good (see above) and thus, whatever they do is good.

Forget motivation. It is always self-justifying. Instead, punish the crime and punish it severely. The world's problems are quite simple. There are far too many people, which causes tensions, and in Russia, China and Trump’s USA, dissent is not allowed because only one viewpoint is acceptable. Worryingly, we are hearing that in academia in Britain now. We must be intolerant of intolerance. It is our only hope.

Peter Hopkins, Edinburgh

Love of country

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Peter Cheyne confuses the love of a country (Scotland) with the dislike of an incompetent Scottish Government – which happens to be a divisive and wholly inept SNP-led one (Letters, 16 November). I love this country, I have continually promoted it all my working life (work that helped win two Queen’s Award for Exports), followed our football team around Europe and raised a family here. However I feel no compulsion to support the SNP who, I believe, have proved so damaging to our lives and future.

Now, strange as it may seem, I could support independence but not the independence Armageddon promoted by the SNP/Green coalition. Mr Cheyne has to understand that independence and the SNP are not one and the same. If he were to reread his own letter he would also understand that the current Conservative Government and the UK are not one and the same. Some of us Scots really do give Scotland that bit love and attention. Maybe the SNP would benefit from listening to us rather than detesting us.

Ken Currie, Edinburgh


What a sorry state Scotland's administration is in under the current SNP/Green Party coalition. It seems that not a day goes by without major problems arising in just about all the key areas of the administration – health, education, public transport, Police Scotland...

The sheer incompetence of the Scottish Government in dealing with problem areas is quite incomprehensible. Why on earth they were ever voted into power simply beggars belief! Nicola Sturgeon and her colleagues are good at posing and grandstanding, but that, sadly, is the sheer extent of their talent.

Scotland’s economy is in a disastrous state in just about every sector, and would be even worse without the huge level of subsidisation extended to it by the Westminster Exchequer – per the Barnett Formula. Many other small countries struggle to merely exist, but as an integral part of the UK, Scotland enjoys the benefits of being part of quite a strong economy – so why do the SNP spend so much time and effort in trying to break-up the 300-year-old Union?

Robert I G Scott, Northfield, Ceres, Fife

Success story

Congratulations to BAE Systems Maritime on the award of a £4.2 billion contract for an additional 5 Type 26 frigates, on top of the three already under construction. This UK government contract award ensures continued support for 1,700 jobs at Govan and Scotstoun well into the next decade.

On Sky News on 15 November, the BAE Systems managing director, Sir Simon Lister, also announced a further infrastructure investment at Govan of between £100 million and £200m.

A real success story for Clyde shipbuilding.

Jim Houston, Edinburgh

Without a clue

Are Nicola Sturgeon’s cries for help from the UK Government valid? We already receive a significantly greater than population share of the UK pie. The SNP like to remind us of their largesse in distributing this on, for example, baby boxes and providing “free” prescriptions and university tuition – where “free”, of course, needs to be translated as “taxpayer funded”. Now we are told the cupboard is bare and it’s up to the UK Government to step in and provide even more extra cash to finance pay rises for NHS workers.

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All governments make policy choices which translate into spending commitments. Some might argue that providing freebies universally is not a wise way to spend taxpayers’ money. Many families could afford to pay for the services mentioned above if they required them. Means testing them, or even cutting them, is a possible option for the SNP. Alternatively, they could continue the policies and raise taxes to pay for them.

Global high inflation rates will provide difficult choices for all governments. The SNP has never had to face such problems. Throwing your hands in the air and holding out a begging bowl doesn’t look like the approach of a government which has any clue as to how to deal with them.

Colin Hamilton, Edinburgh

Tax tourists

Eric Melvin compares the absence of street cleaners and the lack of public toilets in Edinburgh unfavourably with Stratford-upon-Avon (Letters, 15 November). Perhaps a tourist tax would go some way towards remedying these deficiencies.

Michael Grey, Edinburgh

Fading signals

I enjoyed reading Christine Jardine’s affectionate portrait of the BBC (Perspective,14 November). I would agree that BBC local radio stations could be the “epitome” of public service broadcasting and I enjoy listening to Radio Orkney and Radio Shetland when the a holiday gives me that opportunity.

The mantle seems to have slipped a bit, not least in BBC Highland, due to cuts over the last decade. The number of trusted reporters has been reduced and there now seems to be very little resource for news gathering. Stories are often national ones repeated with perhaps the addition of a few local nuances. I am sorry to say this, as I am sure that the BBC staff do the best they can in the circumstances.

The reduction from the 30-minute Morning Report when the station first opened to the mere six minutes now has never worked well for either news or sport especially on Fridays and Mondays when there is more of the latter to cram into the mix.

R J Ardern, Inverness

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