In May of this year, the Scottish government will introduce a minimum price per alcoholic unit. This will focus on the cheapest and strongest alcohol in shops and shouldn’t impact prices in pubs or clubs. The legislation aims to reduce binge drinking and alcohol-related deaths.
A 50p minimum price per unit will be enforced. This will raise prices of 4 cans of lager to at least £4. Currently, 4 cans of lager can be bought from ASDA for as little as 90p. More expensive drinks will not be affected as they already meet the 50p per unit minimum.
Scotland is known for our drinking culture. Alcohol is heavily embedded in our history and lifestyle, however, some argue that it this is causing more harm than good. The legislation was passed five years ago but could not go ahead because of challenges from Scottish drinking organisations. In 2016 there were 1265 alcohol-related deaths in Scotland, suggesting that we need to look at how we drink as a society. It’s difficult to compare statistics with other countries and predict how the change will impact us, as Scotland will be the first country to introduce a minimum price for alcohol.
The legislation has been criticised for targeting the poor. Because only the price of the cheapest alcohol will be changed, it will mostly affect those buying that type of drink: the working class and young people. Middle and upper-class drinkers will not be impacted and will still be able to drink what they want and how much they want. Some argue that alcoholics and binge drinkers won't drink less because of this. Instead, they will just spend more, risking the increase of poverty and debt. Some have also pointed out that this may increase theft of alcohol and a rise in an illicit trade.
Forcing poor people to spend more on alcohol seems unfair. It is unjust to suggest that the working class cannot enjoy alcohol responsibly and ignores the issue of alcoholism in all classes and backgrounds.
The minimum alcohol pricing will begin on May 1.