Supermarkets and off licences targeted

Ministers urge minimum pricing after rise in alcohol sales

Cheap booze - MailGovernment plans to introduce minimum pricing on alcohol was reinforced today after a rise in sales.

This comes after alcohol-related deaths also rose for a second year.

The rise in sales – particularly in supermarkets and off-licences – comes in spite of the multi-buy discount ban and increased investment in alcohol treatment and care services.

The drinks industry has lodged a legal challenge to the minimum pricing plan, but ministers argue that the availability of cheap alcohol remains a key issue, and is closely related to consumption and harm.

Figures published today show that 10.7 litres of pure alcohol were sold per adult in Scotland in 2014 – equivalent to 20.5 units per adult per week – compared to 10.6 litres in 2013. This is in contrast to the trend for declining sales seen in recent years and is mainly due to more alcohol being sold in supermarkets and off-licences.

Scots continue to drink almost a fifth more than in England and Wales, where nine litres of pure alcohol were sold per adult – equivalent to 17.4 units per adult per week.

The figures also show that for the first time since 2007, the average price per unit in the off-trade has not increased and remains at 52p. However, more than half of alcohol sold in off-trade costs below 50p per unit – the level proposed for minimum unit pricing.

The shift from sales in pubs and clubs to supermarkets and off-licences, where average prices are much lower, has also continued. Almost three quarters of alcohol sold in Scotland – 72% – was from supermarkets or off-licences.

Public Health Minister Maureen Watt said: “It’s concerning that the decline in consumption seen in recent years now appears to have stalled, especially after figures published last week showed alcohol-related deaths have increased for the second year running.

“That is why we remain absolutely committed to tackling Scotland’s difficult relationship with alcohol head on. In particular championing the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing.

“We recognise that no single measure will help change our relationship with alcohol. Our Alcohol Framework has more than 40 measures to reduce alcohol-related harm, such as the multi-buy discount ban, increased investment in alcohol treatment and care services, increased delivery of Alcohol Brief Interventions, legislation to ban irresponsible promotions, and introduction of a lower drink drive limit.

“The Framework has had a positive impact so far, but while an average of around 22 people a week still die because of alcohol, there can be no room for complacency. That is why we are working on the next phase of our alcohol strategy which will be ready in 2016.

“The fact that more than half of alcohol in the off-trade is being sold at under 50p per unit is worrying, given the established link between affordability and alcohol-related harm. It reinforces our belief that minimum unit pricing is an essential part of an effective alcohol strategy.”

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