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A ban on cheap alcohol has cost Scottish people about £270 million, a report has suggested.

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has said the nanny state policy had little positive impact on employment, crime and health and warned policies like this often make cost of living worse. 

Nicolas Sturgeon’s government the minimum price on alcoholic drinks law, now in its fifth year, they claimed it would reduce alcohol-related harms, including death, crime and unemployment by preventing cheap drink being bought easily in supermarkets and off-licenses. 

The report did say alcohol consumption fell ‘slightly’ but said it did not translate into better health outcomes. 

Alcohol deaths have also grown in Scotland going from 1,045 in 2015 to 1,190 in 2020 while hospitalisation due to drinking went from 35,430 in 2015/16 and fell to 33,015 in 2020/21, spiking to 36,543 in 2019/2020.

It has also cost drinkers in Scotland an average of £71.12 per head. 

A flagship policy intended to prevent the sale of cheap drinks has cost Scottish people about £270 million, a report has suggested (stock images of cheap wine at a supermarket in the UK)

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon makes a cocktail in Dunfermline, while on the local election campaign trail, yesterday as a report claimed the SNP's minimum pricing policy has had little positive impact on employment, crime and health

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon makes a cocktail in Dunfermline, while on the local election campaign trail, yesterday as a report claimed the SNP's minimum pricing policy has had little positive impact on employment, crime and health

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon makes a cocktail in Dunfermline, while on the local election campaign trail, yesterday as a report claimed the SNP’s minimum pricing policy has had little positive impact on employment, crime and health

The report, titled The Hangover: The Cost Of Minimum Alcohol Pricing In Scotland, said the minimum pricing was introduced in 2018, and justified based on computer modelling from a team at Sheffield University – the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (SAPM).

Computer-based models from Sheffield University showed that the policy could reduce improvements in health, employment and crime rates but the IEA claims this has not been the case.

The think tank also argues that the policy has been ‘counter-productive’ because it collects extra revenue for alcohol supplies, rather than as a tax.

Christopher Snowdon, a co-author of the report and an economist at the IEA, said: ‘Our estimate suggests that minimum pricing has cost Scottish drinkers more than a quarter of a billion pounds. 

‘Now in its fifth year, minimum pricing is a reminder that politicians are often responsible for the rising cost of living.

‘Although alcohol consumption has fallen slightly in Scotland, we find no evidence that this has led to an improvement in health outcomes. 

‘Consumers have simply switched from the most affordable alcohol to mid-range brands, to the benefit of alcohol producers and retailers. 

‘The policy could be dropped tomorrow without costing the Government a penny.’

Researchers also found the policy has cost drinkers in Scotland an average of £71.12 per head (stock image of alcohol in an Edinburgh off-licence shop)

Researchers also found the policy has cost drinkers in Scotland an average of £71.12 per head (stock image of alcohol in an Edinburgh off-licence shop)

Researchers also found the policy has cost drinkers in Scotland an average of £71.12 per head (stock image of alcohol in an Edinburgh off-licence shop) 

The report also points out that though alcohol-related hospital stays were seven per cent lower than the 2017–19 average in Scotland, in 2020. 

But says ‘there was a 30% reduction in all admissions to general acute hospitals in Scotland between 2019/20 and 2020/21’. 

It then concludes it is ‘very unlikely that the decline in alcohol-related hospital admissions in 2020/21 reflects a reduction in alcohol-related harm’.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘In 2020 we saw total alcohol sales reported as falling to their lowest level for 26 years.

‘We had already seen that alcohol sales were falling since our world-leading policy was introduced in 2018 – indeed research published in the Lancet found alcohol sales fell almost 8%.

‘Prior to the pandemic, the reduction in alcohol specific deaths showed encouraging early signs that the introduction of MUP was having a positive impact.

‘Evaluation is ongoing, with a final report from Public Health Scotland in 2023.’

The report is set to also have implications on whether England considers a similar minimum pricing after Wales also introduced the policy on 2 March 2020. 

Despite not having the policy, IIEA said: ‘Scotland saw a 15.6 per cent increase in the rate of alcohol specific deaths in 2020, which is not statistically significant from the 19.3 per cent increase seen in England.’

And also claimed consumption patterns in England and Wales ‘would have been mirrored in Scotland’ with no minimum pricing. 

Source: Daily Mail

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