A move to set a minimum price per unit for the sale of alcohol has been approved by the Supreme Court in Scotland, making the country the first in the world to adopt the measure. This follows a failed legal challenge from the Scotch Whisky Association in a wrangle over European law that lasted five years.
It is thought that the minimum price will be at least 50 pence per unit. Units are calculated by taking the Alcohol by Volume (ABV) percentage, multiplying it by the amount in millilitres (ml) in the bottle, glass or can and dividing by 1,000.
Example: A pint/568 ml can or glass of strong lager at 5.2% ABV has 2.95 units (568 x 5.2 = 2953.6 divided by 1,000 = 2.95 units) At 50 pence per unit this means a minimum retail price of £1.48, cheap for a pint in a pub, not so good for a can in a supermarket.
Example: A 700 ml bottle of wine at 12% ABV has 8.4 units (700 x 12 = 8400 divided by 1,000 = 8.4.) At 50 pence per unit this means a minimum retail price of £4.20, whether sold in a wine bar or supermarket.
Example: A 700 ml bottle of whisky at 40% ABV has 28 units of alcohol (700 x 40 = 2800 divided by 1,000 = 28) At 50 pence per unit this means a minimum price of £14 per bottle, cheap for good single malts, not so cheap for own-brand supermarket whiskies.
It is hoped that the minimum pricing of units will cut down the incidence of alcohol misuse which costs Scotland £3.6 billion a year and resulted last year in 1,265 alcohol-related deaths. Certainly it could affect the consumption of strong white ciders, such as Frosty Jacks with an ABV of 7.5% and available in three litre bottles (22.5 units) for £3.59, or 16 pence per unit, in Iceland stores in Scotland, and elsewhere.
So will we see Scotland’s heavy drinkers carrying out shopping raids across the border for some cheap units when the boom comes down?