Scotland sets minimum price for alcohol to fight drinking problems | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 01.05.2018
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Scotland sets minimum price for alcohol to fight drinking problems

Scotland's government has set up a bottom limit for pricing alcohol content. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the move would "save lives."

Scotland introduced a minimum price per unit of pure alcohol on Tuesday. The move is aimed to curb the sale of cheap and strong drinks in a society burdened by abuse of alcohol.

"This public health policy will save lives," First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

Scots consume nearly 20 percent more alcohol on average than residents of England or Wales, according to government data. Officials say 24 people die from alcohol-related causes every week, and that 60 percent of young offenders in Scottish prisons were drunk at the time of the offense.

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Other parts of the UK were also mulling minimum pricing for alcohol, Sturgeon told the AFP news agency.

"I think we will see countries across Europe and further afield look to replicate what has been done here in Scotland," she added.

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Under the new policy, alcohol sellers will be expected to charge at least half a British pound (€0.57/$0.68) for every unit of pure alcohol. In the UK, a unit is set at 10 ml or 8 grams of alcoholic content. This roughly works out to nearly 3 units per pint of beer or two per standard glass of wine, although these figures vary with the brands and makes of alcoholic beverages.

The measure is expected to target mainly cheaper white ciders, extra-strength beers, and spirits.

"Almost all drinks bought in the pub are already sold well above any likely minimum price, so they wouldn't be affected," the government said on their website.

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Government vs. whisky makers

The Scottish parliament first adopted the measure in 2012, but it was challenged in court by the Scotch Whisky Association and other representatives of the industry. That launched a yearslong legal battle that reached the European Court of Justice in 2015. Last year, Britain's Supreme Court sided with the Scottish government.

On Tuesday, First Minister Sturgeon dismissed concerns that minimum pricing would harm Scotland's whisky industry.

"The premium whiskies that the industry in Scotland is so renowned for are not the alcohol products that are going to be most affected by minimum pricing," she told the AFP news agency.

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