South Scotland MSP and Deputy Convenor of Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee, Emma Harper, has hit out at recent claims made by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) which she describes as “outdated and based purely on research carried out in a different era ”, when they referred to the minimum unit pricing of alcohol as being “paternalistic, regressive and ineffective”.

A minimum price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol was implemented on the 1st May 2018 in Scotland with the aim of saving lives, reducing harm caused by alcohol and reducing alcohol related hospital admissions. Minimum unit pricing set a baseline price for a unit of alcohol which means alcohol can’t legally be sold for lower than the baseline price which is reviewed every 24 months by the Scottish Government.

The more alcohol a drink contains, the stronger it is and therefore the higher the minimum unit price. Minimum unit pricing is not a tax, it is a targeted way of making sure alcohol is sold at a sensible price.

However, in an article, the IEA – branded a conservative think tank – have quoted information from a study carried out in 1995 which concluded that heavy drinkers are much less price elastic than moderate drinkers, and that a minimum unit price would not stop problem drinkers from drinking. However, in a statement, the South Scotland MSP said that this article is based on research and attitudes towards drinking from a different era.

Commenting, Ms Harper said:

“The benefits of Minimum Unit Pricing in Scotland look hugely positive. It is estimated that the policy will achieve 400 fewer alcohol-related deaths, 8,000 fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions and, over time, a change in attitudes towards alcohol. This is evidence independently carried out by Sheffield University.

“In the news article, the IEA cite research which was carried out 25 years ago in 1995 which indicates that heavy drinkers are not as bothered about alcohol pricing. However, 25 years ago, Scotland was a very different society; we had hugely different spending behaviours, we had much higher levels of alcohol consumption and we did not have many of the alcohol related laws and regulations which the Scottish Parliament brought in post the Parliament’s inception in 1999. These statements from the IEA are simply based on outdated evidence which, in today’s society, is simply unsubstantiated.

“It Is also worth pointing out that the IEA have paid several senior UK Government Conservative politicians money to lobby on behalf of alcohol and tobacco firms. One prominent example of this is the current UK Health Secretary who was paid £32,000 by the IEA prior to his appointment as Health Secretary. The interests and aims of the IEA are clear – instead of promoting analysis on policies which are benefitting the health of our nation, they are more concerned over lining the pockets of Westminster Tory’s to the detriment of the people of Scotland.

“I have written to the IEA to challenge this article and will keep all update on their response.”

Link to the IEA Article: iea.org.uk/minimum-unit-pricing-is-paternalistic-regressive-and-seemingly-ineffective/ <iea.org.uk/minimum-unit-pricing-is-paternalistic-regressive-and-seemingly-ineffective/>

Link to the BMJ Article which shows the amounts UK Conservative politicians have received from the IEA: www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/deep-concerns-over-public-health-as-the-bmj-reveals-mps-links-to-organisation-backed-by-tobacco-industry/ <www.bmj.com/company/newsroom/deep-concerns-over-public-health-as-the-bmj-reveals-mps-links-to-organisation-backed-by-tobacco-industry/>