The Scottish government has for the first time set out the minimum price per unit it wants charged for alcohol.

Booze will cost at least 45p per unit if today’s amendment to the Alcohol (Scotland) Bill is passed.

The Bill, which is about to start the second stage of the parliamentary process, contained plans to introduce a minimum price but had not previously specified the amount. MSPs will vote on the vote on the legislation in October or November.

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the move would save lives and money.

“For too long, too many Scots have been drinking themselves into an early grave,” she said.

“It is no coincidence that as the affordability of alcohol has plummeted in recent decades, alcohol-related deaths, disease, crime and disorder have spiralled. I believe it’s crucial that we reintroduce realistic alcohol pricing.”

She added: “It cannot be right that a man can exceed his weekly recommended alcohol limit for less than £3.50.”

The Scotch Whisky Association said the move would be illegal, would restrict foreign trade and cut domestic consumption of Scotch whisky by 13%.

“The scheme fails to meet the basic tests of European Union law and will do little to address alcohol misuse,” said SWA chief executive Gavin Hewitt.

“It would, however, significantly damage Scotch whisky at home and abroad. We need consensus on a legal alternative.

“Excise duty reform so that all drinks are taxed on the same basis, according to alcohol content, and a ban on sales below tax, is a fair and socially responsible way forward. It would also raise over £1bn extra revenue for the public finances.”

Morrisons corporate affairs director Richard Taylor said: “We would like to reiterate our view presented in a letter to the Home Secretary in June this year. Instead of a minimum unit price, we believe the UK government should legislate to stop the sale of alcohol below the rate of duty plus VAT.

“This would provide an immediate and fair approach to stem the misuse of alcohol and provide a solution across the whole of the UK, including Scotland. If the government thinks price is a way to affect demand, it can do so by raising duty knowing that it will apply across the UK.”

Gavin Partington of the Wine & Sprits Trade Assocation added: “Setting a minimum price at 45p doesn’t alter the fact that minimum pricing is wrong in principle. It won’t tackle alcohol misuse but will punish families on low incomes and pensioners.”

A report this week by the Alcohol Commission, set up by the Labour Party in Scotland, rejected a minimum price for alcohol and called for a ban on below cost sales instead.

Read more
Scots booze commission knocks back SNP pricing plan (31 August 2010)
Tax drink on strength not type, says Diageo (31 August 2010)
Wholesalers to reveal the real cost of drink (21 August 2010)