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1 October 2009updated 27 Sep 2015 2:59am

Drying out the swalliers

By Alyssa McDonald

Scotland’s reputation as a nation of “bevviers and swalliers”, as the justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, put it, is under attack from the SNP. Over the past year, the Scottish government has proposed a raft of policies to limit the availability of alcohol, the most controversial of which – setting a minimum price per unit – received a little boost with research, published on 28 September, suggesting that, at 40p per unit, Scottish drinking would drop far enough to save hundreds of lives over the next few years, and £950m in health-care costs.

A minimum price would hit the poorest hardest. But then so does Scotland’s love of the bottle: in some of the most deprived regions, drink-related hospital admissions are six times as common as elsewhere.

However, the sad truth is that you can’t price an alcoholic out of his or her addiction, and to some extent the same principle applies to drinking culture more generally. High prices have not helped curb Scandinavia’s heavy drinking. And the SNP policy will do nothing for problems behind drinking in Scotland. The pricing policy – similar to the one advocated last year by Iain Duncan Smith’s Centre for Social Justice – will not help those most in need.

Nevertheless, Scotland is the eighth-hardest-drinking country in the world. The SNP is throwing the kitchen sink at the problem. Measures may not all work, but focus on the issue can only be a good thing.

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