Minimum Unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol was introduced in Scotland some five years ago and Ireland have adopted a similar scheme. The idea was fairly straightforward and it was designed to combat alcohol related incidents. It applied to bars, pubs, shops and restaurants and made it illegal to sell alcohol under 50p per unit. This made total sense to me (and still does) as it also prevented some shops selling cheap alcohol at close to cost price. A policy action team predicted huge health benefits and an improvement in social behaviour and thus a reduction in crime rates. According to the Scottish government it had been possible to buy 14 units of alcohol for £2.50 and this was to be increase to £7+ with the new legislation.
Naturally this move would hit the pockets of many people, but it was aimed at the most harmful drinkers. It was predicted that the introduction of MUP would cost the consumers about £75m but, in reality, it has cost almost four times as much. This averages about £70 per annum per drinker but, in my view, it is a sensible price to pay for the small reduction in alcohol consumption in Scotland.
There is serious debate as to whether or not the policy is worth maintaining. I firmly believe it is, and would like to see the introduction of this policy in England and Wales. However as usual there has been prevarication and delay – it seems utterly impossible that anyone will ever make a decision in this country. I’m fed up with sub committees and working parties. Just be decisive and help to reduce all the related hospital admissions that would be a natural benefit of legislation.