Scotland is set to become the first nation in Europe to implement mandatory minimum pricing for alcohol. The proposed legislation means to combat binge-drinking culture and should not have any effect on the nations responsible drinkers. Similar plans are currently being discussed in England.The Scottish government has been attempting to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol for some time now and Academics and breweries alike backed the decision for the bill to go through this month. The SNP bases its reasons for bringing in the new pricing on the positive statistics from a similar bill in Canada. It appears once it was imposed it significantly reduced alcohol consumption. Of course the ultimate aim is not to penalise the majority of Scottish citizens who drink responsibly, but to curtail excessive drinking which leads to alcohol addiction, health problems, social breakdown and heightened crime rates.
Supermarkets and off-licences hit the hardest
As the global recession deepens it may have been expected that alcohol as a luxury item would become more expensive and so reduce excessive drinking would naturally be reduced, but it seems the reverse is true. Alcohol to some extent, has become more accessible as people are buying at a discount from supermarkets and off-licences. Also specialist party outlets are springing up (mainly aimed at students) and selling alcohol at prices of £1.
Experts believe it will be in supermarkets and off-licences where the minimum pricing will be most visible. Health campaigners fully support the bill because it is expected that as well as the cheapest drinks being increased in price, also the strongest alcohol will be targeted.
Not everyone is welcoming the minimum price bill and there are fears that it may fall foul of European legislation. There is no doubt of course, that there will be anger from retailers who feel they are being denied to sell at competitive prices. However, a surprising supporter of the new move was the brewery Green King. Chief executive Rooney Anand believes it will go to the very heart of problems associated with excessive drinking. Mr Anand said: "We have consistently argued that the solution must be proportionate to the problem and should not penalise the majority of responsible drinkers.
England likely to follow
Creating a minimum pricing system that does not penalise the majority of drinkers and targets excess is difficult, and needs a fine balance. Various models and ideas of how this can be done have been put forward in England as well. Sheffield University started the Ball rolling in 2008 and various other areas in the North West are likely to follow suit. The local authorities in Greater Manchester are expected to consider a final draft within the next couple of months, with neighbouring councils in Lancashire, and Merseyside at varying stages in a similar process.