Scots are to be forced to pay at least £6 for a bottle of wine after SNP ministers unveiled plans to dramatically increase their minimum alcohol price despite the cost-of-living crisis.
Elena Whitham, the SNP drugs and alcohol policy minister, published a consultation on increasing the minimum unit price (MUP) by 30 per cent, from 50p per unit to 65p.
This would mean a bottle of wine with 12.5 per cent alcohol content could not be sold for less than £6.09, a four-pack of beer in 440ml cans would cost at least £5.72 and a bottle of Scotch whisky a minimum of £18.20.
Ms Whitham said a recent rise in alcohol deaths showed the price needed to increase to 65p. But the consultation admitted that a lower level of 60p per unit would “uprate” the price in line with “the most commonly used measure of inflation”.
The document said this would cut alcohol deaths and hospitalisations “on a broadly comparable level” to when the policy was introduced.
However, it said the price should be set at 65p to address “the worsening situation of overall population health and inequalities in Scotland, and alcohol-related health harm as measured by mortality trends in recent years”.
The change would take effect in April when the legislation expires. The consultation was published amid a row over the effectiveness of the policy. A Public Health Scotland analysis said there had been 13.4 per cent fewer deaths related to alcohol than would have happened without the policy.
But it emerged that Scottish Government civil servants had requested dozens of changes to the report that talked up the impact of the policy.
It emerged last month that alcohol deaths in Scotland had surged to their highest level in 14 years, with more people dying due to drink than drugs.
The consultation on raising the price admitted there was “limited evidence” MUP had reduced consumption among people with “alcohol dependence”.
It also cited warnings that they “may have experienced harm, such as withdrawal, reduced expenditure on food or intoxication possibly from switching to spirits as a consequence of MUP”.
Unveiling the document, Ms Whitham said Scotland’s “world-leading minimum unit pricing policy is one of the measures we know can make a difference” over alcohol-related deaths.
Dr Sandesh Gulhane, a GP and the Scottish Tories’ health secretary, said: “Increasing it to 65p per unit would only hit responsible drinkers during a cost-of-living crisis.”