Minimum unit pricing on alcohol should be raised to 60p to help tackle Scotland’s “problematic alcohol use”, the Liberal Democrats have said.
In the week marking the one-year anniversary of the introduction of a minimum price per unit of alcohol, health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton has called for it to be increased from 50p to at least 60p.
Defending the proposed rise of 20% to the minimum unit price, Mr Cole-Hamilton told BBC Radio Scotland: “If we are serious about making a realistic impact in terms of reducing deaths, hospital admissions and fewer crimes associated with problematic alcohol use then we need to go further than the 50p.
“When we first set the price at 50p, that was back in 2012. The only reason it actually came in last year was that it was caught up in legal wrangling for those intervening years.
“Back then, that 50p (minimum unit price) would have affected three-quarters of all alcoholic drinks but, because of inflation over that time, it now only affects about half.
“We’ve arguably lost the benefit that the 50p increase would have had back then in 2012.
“Our call to increase it to 60p or go further still, as some people want to do, is backed by people like NHS Grampian, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and indeed the UK faculty of public health.”
Asked whether it was fair that the policy would just affect cheaper drinks, Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “We know that problematic alcohol use isn’t confined to poorer communities, it’s right across the board.
“This is not an element in isolation, we need to look at public awareness and education – we do have one of the most-problematic relationships with alcohol in the world, it’s a cultural thing.
“We need to look at our entire relationship with alcohol but that starts with making it less incentivised by increasing the unit pricing.”