The minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol in Scotland could rise to 65p per unit under proposals from ministers.
The MUP was set at 50p per unit when it was introduced in 2018 and the current term will end on 30 April next year.
Drugs and alcohol policy minister Elena Whitham is proposing to push up the unit price to 65p in a consultation launched on Wednesday.
The proposed rise is in line with demands from groups including Alcohol Focus Scotland.
It comes after figures released in August showed 1,276 people died from alcohol last year, the highest number since 2008.
Ms Whitham said: “The recent rise in alcohol-specific deaths highlights the need for more to be done to tackle alcohol-related harm.
She said the Scottish government’s “world-leading MUP policy” had “saved hundreds of lives, likely averted hundreds of alcohol-attributable hospital admissions each year, and also contributed to reducing health inequalities”.
Ms Whitham said the proposals in the consultation “strike a reasonable balance between public health benefits and any effects on the alcoholic drinks market and subsequent impact on consumers”.
Wales brought in a 50p MUP in March 2020, while that same month the government in Westminster said there were “no plans for the introduction of MUP in England”.
The Scottish government said it settled on 65p as it believes this price will bring the most health benefits while minimising interference in the market.
It said a price of 70p or more would result in “a more significant distortion to the market”, with some premium products being included.
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Alcohol duty shake-up explained
How would a 65p MUP affect drinks’ prices?
Under the 65p MUP, a 700ml bottle of Scotch whisky would cost a minimum of £18.20.
The same volume of vodka or gin would have a minimum price of £17.07.
A pack of four 440ml cans of cider would cost at least £5.15, while a pack of four beer cans of the same size would cost at least £5.72.
The consultation will continue for nine weeks, after which ministers will make a final decision on whether MUP should continue and what the unit price will be.
Ms Whitham said she wanted to “hear from all sides”.
Responding to the plans, Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie said his party was the first “to call for this change, so I am glad that ministers have listened”.
“If MUP doesn’t move with inflation then the ambition of the policy is eroded.
“More than 20 people a week are dying in Scotland due to alcohol misuse.”
Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane highlighted that the Scottish government had recently updated a press release on the benefits of MUP after he complained about it to the UK Statistics Authority.
He said: “Ministers had to amend a press release boasting of its success and were criticised for cherry-picking from one particular study to try and suit their narrative.”
He also said: “The launching of a second consultation shows even SNP ministers have concerns over any significant changes to their flagship minimum unit pricing policy.
“Increasing it to 65p per unit would only hit responsible drinkers during a cost-of-living crisis.”
Written by: Newsroom