Cheap drink to be a thing of the past by spring

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This Christmas will be the last in which bargain price booze will be legally on sale in Falkirk - because minimum pricing starts in May.

Following its historic success in seeing off a challenge from the Scotch Whisky Association the Scottish Government is gearing up for a minimum unit price of 50p.

The new pricing is only likely to affect off-sales purchases, as in recent years the gap between pub and restaurant prices and those in licensed grocers and supermarkets has grown ever wider.

Nor will it mean every drink’s price will increase - for example one particularly well-known brand of fortified wine (bought exclusively from off sales) is not a discount brand and won’t be affected.

The main targets are cheap white “ciders” and “value for money” spirits brands.

The new regime could see a period during which English and Welsh pricing remains the same - a prospect which has fuelled speculation about “cross border ‘booze cruises’”.

But supporters of minimum pricing are optimistic the Scottish example will be swiftly followed - as with the 2006 smoking ban - by the rest of Britain.

Health secretary Shona Robison said: “We want to introduce minimum unit pricing as quickly as possible.

“There were 1,265 alcohol-related deaths last year, up 10 per cent on 2015, while just today we see statistics showing a two per cent annual increase in alcohol-related hospital stays.

“These numbers are completely unacceptable - behind every one of these statistics is a person, a family and a community.”

She added: “With alcohol on sale today at just 18 pence a unit, we have to act to tackle the scourge of cheap, high-strength drink that causes so much damage.

“Research shows a minimum unit price of 50 pence would cut alcohol-related deaths by 392 and hospital admissions by 8,254 over the first five years of the policy.

“I anticipate setting the minimum unit price at 50 pence per unit.

“We now want to hear from retailers, representative bodies and Licensing Standards Officers about the practicalities of implementation.”