England ‘unlikely to get minimum booze price’

By Noli Dinkovski

- Last updated on GMT

Minimum unit price for alcohol: ‘unlikely’ in England
Minimum unit price for alcohol: ‘unlikely’ in England

Related tags Scotland United kingdom

The adoption of a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol in Scotland is unlikely to be replicated in England under the current government – but Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to follow suit – a leading academic behind the research into its effectiveness has claimed.

Minimum pricing was off the agenda with the Conservative government while the Brexit negotiations were ongoing, suggested Dr John Holmes, senior research fellow at the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, which was commissioned by the Scottish government to investigate its value.

However, Wales was likely to be next to bring in a MUP, as last month’s Supreme Court ruling indicated that “national governments should have the discretion to make their own judgment”, he explained.

In November, seven Supreme Court judges ruled that legislation on a MUP for alcohol did not breach European law. It paved the way for the Scotland to implement the measure on May 1 2018 after five years of legal wrangling.

120 fewer alcohol-related deaths

The Sheffield Alcohol Research Group estimated that once it had its full effect, the introduction of a 50p MUP in Scotland would result in 120 fewer alcohol-related deaths and 2,000 fewer hospital admissions per year.

The academic community was broadly supportive of the measure. Professor Robin Davidson, a consultant clinical psychologist and chairman of UK Smart Recovery, claimed it was the most important public health legislation in Scotland since the smoking ban in public places was introduced in 2006.

“The economic evidence that MUP reduces per capita alcohol consumption across all drinkers, thereby reducing alcohol related harm, has been indisputable for decades,”​ he said. “In a short time, we will see improvement in everything from liver disease to Scottish life expectancy.”

Peter Anderson, professor of substance use, policy and practice at Newcastle University, claimed the introduction of MUP “should be rolled out throughout the rest of the UK, as well as the Republic of Ireland, as quickly as possible”.

‘Should be held accountable’

He even went as far to say those responsible for the five-year delay were “collectively responsible​” for an estimated 500 preventable deaths of Scottish people “and should be held accountable for them”.

However, Dr Niamh Fitzgerald, senior lecturer in Alcohol Studies at the University of Stirling, cautioned that MUP was not intended to “solve all alcohol problems for good”.

“It is not expected that MUP will result in huge numbers of people quitting drinking, and that has never been the aim of the policy.

“Even small reductions in consumption can lead to significant health benefits and this is particularly true in heavier drinkers and those on low incomes,”​ she added.

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