I was pleased that to hear the Scottish Government announce yesterday that it is proposing to set a minimum price for alcohol at 50p per unit. Well, pleased but still worried… it’s a much better level than the 35p per unit proposed in England – but is it enough? The research I have seen would suggest that for this policy to make a difference to our life threatening drink culture, a higher level per unit is required to make a real difference.
I am proud to be Scottish – it’s deeply ingrained in who I am. But, sadly, engrained in being Scottish is also a culture of drinking that destroys the lives of many of my fellow scots. Every day in my life as a parish minister, I see the devastation to lives that regular drinking and binge drinking cause’s to individual and their families. It affects health, employment and community life, not to mention the accidents that result from drink drivers getting behind the wheel with inappropriate levels of alcohol in their blood stream.
Minimum pricing is not a magic wand – the only way we are going to make a real difference is through a package of culture changing measures which, as well as minimum pricing, needs to include health campaigns, education work in and out of schools and positive messages from role models in sport, music, film, media and other opinion formers – messages that say a wee drink or two is fine, drunk will not make you popular, sexy or happy.
Fifty pence per unit is a start; it will result in the cheapest bottle of wine coming in at £4.69 and four-pack of lager costing £3.52. However – the effect on alcopops is likely to be minimal. With an average of 1.5 units of alcohol per bottle this would add £1.50 to the cost per bottle, but supermarkets are selling multi-packs which an average price of £1 per bottle. Will £2.50 per bottle really reduce the amount drunk by the younger generation? It might help but until we are brave enough to move from “go on - have a drink” to “you’ve had enough, - let’s stop” it won’t do so on its own.