As we approach Christmas, adverts on TV are urging shoppers to stock up on alcohol in preparation for the festive season. Whilst some of us may enjoy a glass of something special at Christmas, or a dram to bring in the New Year, what about our drinking habits throughout the year? What of the drinking habits of our nation?
Last week, the Scottish Government introduced the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament. The Bill will introduce a minimum price of alcohol below which alcohol must not be sold on licensed premises. The Scottish Government hasn't revealed the minimum price that they are planning to introduce, but it will be set according to the strength of the alcohol, the volume of the alcohol and the minimum price per unit.
This isn't something that the Church has just supported in the heat of political debate; the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland discussed and supported the principle of minimum pricing in 1983, 1986 and 1987 and reaffirmed this position in 2009.
If an increase in the minimum price of alcohol will reduce consumption of alcohol and reduce the resulting problems for individuals and our society then it is not a case of penalising the majority in order to discourage the minority. This is a choice that we, as a society, could make in order to improve our collective health and wellbeing. That is why I will support the principle of the Scottish Government introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol.