A minimum price for alcohol of 45p a unit would save Scotland more than £700m in 10 years, health secretary Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Ms Sturgeon said changing the law so alcohol could not be sold cheaper than that would mean 50 fewer deaths from alcohol in the first year alone. Speaking as the proposed minimum price was announced, she said: “This policy will very quickly make big inroads into the big problem of alcohol misuse we have in Scotland.”
Plans to bring in a minimum price per unit for alcohol form a key part of the SNP administration’s bid to tackle Scotland’s drink problem - which is estimated to cost the country £3.56bn a year.
While the policy has won support from the medical profession and others, the main opposition parties in Scotland - Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats - are all against the measure and have vowed to vote it down.
However, Ms Sturgeon said : “We have, I think, a golden opportunity to be bold and to face up to a big problem that is costing all of us dear in Scotland.”
Ms Sturgeon said the policy would have “significant benefits”, including 50 fewer deaths in its first year, rising to 225 fewer deaths per year after a decade. She added that there would be 1,200 fewer hospital admissions in the first year while the measure could also result in 22,900 fewer days’ absence from work.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The financial savings of this policy across our health service, our justice system and the economy would amount to £52m in year one and £721m over a 10-year period.”
Scotland’s chief medical officer Dr Harry Burns backed the proposed minimum price and said: “This is something we should try because we will see the results quickly. Why wouldn’t we do it?
“We need to do this quickly because the longer we delay means that people will be dying who would otherwise rein back their drinking and have the opportunity to recover.
“Increasing the price in this way is the quickest and most effective way to change the harm that is being done to our health as a result of excess alcohol consumption.”