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Cheers to a minimum price rise for booze?

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Issue 2564
The rich sip wine while the poor are stigmatised for being forced to drink cheap booze
The rich sip wine while the poor are stigmatised for being forced to drink cheap booze (Pic: Lucia Sanchez)

Would a minimum price for alcohol benefit working class people and reduce the harm done by excessive drinking?

This week the Scottish Whisky Association went to the Supreme Court in London to argue against the Scottish Government’s decision to introduce a 50p minimum price per unit of alcohol.

The appeal has nothing to do with concern over what ordinary people put in their bodies. It focuses on the ability of firms to do their business profitably.

It’s tempting to be for anything that the drink lords are against.

But a minimum price won’t hit the better off people who pay £7 for a bottle of wine or £35 for a bottle of Talisker Single Malt Whisky. They already pay more than 50p a unit.

It will hit poorer people who buy the cheaper products.


Perhaps a few who are “problem drinkers” will cut down on their intake. But most will keep buying.

That will mean windfall profits for the supermarkets and off licences while drinkers cut back on other areas of expenditure.

Buying cheaper food, clothes and accommodation is likely to further worsen the health of people who drink excessively.

And higher prices will push some people toward buying stronger alcohol. If you have limited money, you go for the stronger option.

A minimum price does nothing to tackle the underlying problems that drive people to drink.


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