MSPs back minimum alcohol pricing increase

The change will see the floor rise from 50p to 65p from September 30.

A committee of MSPs has backed the increase to the minimum unit price of alcohol as a minister urged councils to spend Government funding on addiction services.

The change will see the floor rise from 50p to 65p from September 30.

At a meeting of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee on Tuesday, eight MSPs on the committee voted in favour and the two Tory representatives voted against.

The increase will now be put before the whole chamber before it is passed.

Opponents have questioned data on the impact of the policy, with alcohol-related deaths in 2022 at the highest level since 2008, but alcohol and drug minister Christina McKelvie stressed the move should not be treated as a “silver bullet”.

“No single intervention in issues as complex as alcohol harm would be,” she said.

“From some findings in the Public Health Scotland (PHS) evaluation, it was clear that some people who were alcohol dependent had experienced additional challenges linked to the price of alcohol increasing.

“I know that specialist support and treatment is vital for these people.”

The Scottish Government has provided a “record” funding settlement for alcohol and drug partnerships (ADPs) across the country of £112 million, she said, adding that ministers expect the money to be spent on addiction services.

“I’m absolutely clear that the budget we have provided for ADPs this year gets spent on ADPs,” Ms McKelvie said.

“My direction, I think if I have to go that far, will be that that money is spent on ADPs and the work that they have to do, including the very detailed work they do with dependent drinkers.”

The increase may also become a regular feature of minimum unit pricing (MUP), according to the minister, who said officials in her department were at the early stages of considering an annual increase to the rate which would be linked to an inflationary index.

Speaking against the move, Scottish Tory health spokesman Sandesh Gulhane said: “Whilst the minister has spoken many times to say this is not the silver bullet, it’s nuanced and there’s lots of other things that need to be done, the facts are nothing else is being done – this is the Government’s silver bullet.

“This is the only thing that they seem to be doing when it comes to the area of alcohol.

“We simply need to see more treatment occurring, because that is proven to reduce people’s dependence on alcohol, it’s also proven to reduce deaths and improve lives and save lives.”

He also urged the Scottish Government to back his party’s Right to Recovery Bill.

The minister rejected the claim nothing else was being done.

Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, chairman of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, welcomed the news, saying MUP has “been shown to save lives”.

“The debate has often become heated, but the overwhelming consensus is that MUP is a vital tool to tackle the harms and deaths caused by alcohol in Scotland on a daily basis,” he added.

“I am delighted that the Health Committee has listened to the evidence and made clear its view, and encourage MSPs of all parties to act on this when the vote in the Scottish Parliament takes place in the coming weeks.”

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