/ Food & Drink, Health, Shopping

Alcohol score: Scotland 50p – England/Wales 40p

Scottish ministers have proposed a minimum 50p per alcohol unit. A bottle of wine would set you back at least £4.69 and four cans of Tesco strong dry cider would rise from £1.80 to £4.67. Will this rein in alcohol abuse?

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish health secretary, announced plans to introduce the minimum price, upping it from the previously considered 45p:

‘Cheap alcohol comes at a price and now is the time to tackle the toll that Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol is taking on our society.’

The new minimum price will also affect multibuys, since a bottle of wine won’t be able to cost less than £4.69, supermarkets will have to stay away from ‘three bottles for £10-12’ offers (the cheapest offer would have to be £14.01 for 12.5% bottles). And when looking to spirits, Tesco’s own-brand vodka will rise 34% from £8.72 to £13.13.

It’s been worked out that alcoholics would have to spend an extra £120 on drink a year.

The new minimum price is expected to go through the Scottish parliament, with Scottish Labour likely to support the proposal as long as there’s a £130m ‘health levy’ on supermarkets, so that the government can get back the supermarket’s increased revenue from the new 50p price.

Your say on minimum alcohol prices

When we talked about the government’s proposed 40p unit price in March, our Facebook friends didn’t think the proposal would curb Britain’s drinking problem. Gavin told us:

‘It will mildly inconvenience most people, and cause a few people to divert food money into drink purchases.’

Norman agreed, adding:

‘No, it’s just another tax on the ordinary man. There is no evidence despite what the government says that the price of alcohol is a factor in binge drinking. Just as 20p on a Greggs pasty won’t stop obesity.’

Brigitte added to the Facebook chorus:

‘No it won’t! What is needed is a change in the way we educate our young people and a culture change in our attitudes.’

There was a similar consensus in the comments on Which? Convo, with Womble10 explaining:

‘Sensible drinkers will be the main losers, as always! Binge drinkers will find the money. It will make no difference to the appalling levels of drunkenness on our streets.’

However, Maurice was of a different opinion and argued that price needed to be tackled:

‘The medical professions, health and social services and the police all know that establishing a minimum cost per unit of alcohol will result in a reduced per capita consumption and an associated decrease in alcohol-related problems.

‘The facts remains that as long as alcohol is ridiculously cheap and widely available we will continue to face the many and varied social problems directly caused by over consumption. I would not mind paying extra for alcohol.’

So, whether it’s Scotland’s 50p or the 40p proposed by David Cameron for England and Wales, will a new minimum price curb binge drinking, or will it become a tax on responsible drinkers?


Hmm, let me see, has raising the price of any other “guilty pleasures” decreased consumption/use?

Cigarettes, Energy, Petrol, Flying…..

Just another cynical Tory money-making scheme if you ask me.

What they really should be changing is how we drink and what we drink. For example, every “beer” in this country that is sold in the supermarkets is riddled with additional chemicals that they are not forced to disclose on the label.

If the beer was less toxic, we wouldn’t have half the social issues that we have now.

My suggestion would be
1- Invoke German beer Purity law
2- Only serve beer at tables (no queueing up at the bar)
3- Settle your bill when you leave

This would not only cause an explosion of local breweries (in turn helping the local economy + giving each town a local identity), but should also help remove the “wife-beater” element that exists in all English beers served in pubs and supermarkets.

There are hundreds of breweries producing respectable beers and they are often available locally. I agree that beer (and other alcoholic drinks, bread and many other products) should show the ingredients. You can keep your fizzy, cold, foreign beers, thank-you.

The minimum price per unit is only going to affect supermarkets selling cheap and nasty booze. We would have less of a problem if supermarkets were not allowed to sell alcohol.

Robint says:
16 May 2012

Slightly off topic but on the same subject as “rip off”
I have never understood why the alco drinks industry has been exempt from stating their ingredients, like every other food/drink we consume?

Some of these drinks can contain nasty preservatives, colourings etc that we need to know about

After all soft drinks have their E numbers clearly stated for people with hyper active kids

Something stinks

Ah wavechange, you must be a real ale drinker.
CAMRA have the same pompous attitude “we drink real ale and therefore are best”

Many, many people like lager, like me, like a whole country of Germans, but I don’t like the rubbish that is available almost everywhere. I’ve lived in Germany and there they do it properly, you are guaranteed quality wherever you are in the country. But here in most pubs/bars/venues, the lager is pure chemicals.

If they provide real ale, why not provide real lager? It’s not a choice between ale and lager because the 2 are completely different. If the beer boys drank less toxic chemicals then they would fight less, I certainly feel less aggressive after drinking German beer, doesn’t give me a hangover either!

Robint says:
16 May 2012


Lager in UK is S***. Germans have an excellent brewing tradition – no contest BUT what about the Belgians (who went into hiding after being attacked by Basil Fawlty). It is said that Belgium has an individual town brewery for every day of the year and they have kept their identity and not got swallowed up by big combines and investment houses.

What can I say about their beers that has not already be eulogised so many times

One of my locals stocks more than 30 bottled of premium Belgian brews (complete with their special glasses). They range from Duvel 5.5% to Triple Got Verdammer at 13%. all at £3.60 for a 33cl bottle

Superb value as you sip them slowly to sample the flavours (not throw them down your neck like rubbish lagers). One of those easily lasts me an hour of pure pleasure.

For you buffs, whats the difference between Lager and Pils – an easy one

but Ale vs Beer ?


We are off-topic, but it’s your fault. 🙂

I am a real ale drinker, and drink in moderation. I am not a CAMRA member because I don’t like being associated with people who often drink more than is good for them, even though I very much support what they have achieved.

There are real ale lagers in the UK, best known being Harviestoun Schiehallion. I’m not keen on this (it tastes like lager!) or on many of the bland, golden ales intended to appeal to lager drinkers.

I’m curious to know what the chemical additives you regard as making English beers ‘toxic’. Maybe we should continue this discussion on a different Conversation.

Robint says:
16 May 2012

yes we have wandered off to other interesting areas but dont know how to start a new topic?

As for beer additives – formaldehyde for one often added to lagers coming from hot countries

Wine can have many chemicals added but the real worry is the residual pesticides cos grapes are often picked and crushed without washing

we dont do this with fruit we eat

but the wine industry is full of scalliwags

Dunc Wooster says:
15 May 2012

The minimum price is well worth trying.
Based on experience in other countries it will almost certainly reduce excess or problem drinking a little bit.
But lots of other things would need to be done too, to make major progress.

The claim that it’s just “another cynical Tory money-making scheme”, is silly and ill-informed, as the measure is being introduced by an SNP-led government.

A complete and utter waste of time. This will do little or nothing to reduce binge drinking, but will penalise responsible low income people (like pensioners) who drink at home.
How is it fair that a pensioner’s tipple costs more just becausea minority of idiots want to get hammered every Friday and Saterday night?
Stiffer penalties for the idiots combined with an drink awareness education campaign is a better and certainly fairer approach.

Rosie says:
15 May 2012

And not just pensioners. There are many of us in the 40-60 age bracket who are now really struggling financially – eg a person living on their own who’s lost a well paying job due to illness or ageism but doesn’t qualify for benefits, a couple who have lost one income but, again, don’t qualify for benefits, etc. The “new poor” (and the true “hidden” poor) are in this bracket and struggle with food and other bills, with perhaps just 1-3 bottles of wine and/or a few bottles of beer per couple a month and no money at all to go to the pub or for meals out. Why should so many people in these categories, with so little spare money, be penalised?
The young have always taken part in binge drinking. The difference is that now they have more spare cash (often due to living with parents still!) than we older people. They’ll therefore still manage to binge drink (and buy drugs in many cases), as will alcoholics.
As always, a problem like this is being tackled in totally the wrong way! Go back to reduced licensing hours and stop so many “drinking” pubs and clubs cropping up in our cities. That will help.

Fred says:
15 May 2012

it wont stop bingers, it will increase imports and booze cruises, thus negativel impacting local sellers. It’s already doomed.

In the 1970s, home-made wind and beer was quite popular. I wonder if the imposition of a minimum duty on alcohol will rekindle interest in this largely forgotten art, helping those who are struggling with bills to save money.

I have never heard of a group of young people downing bottles of home-made wine before setting off to create mayhem in city centre bars and clubs.

Oops. That should read …. home-made wine ….

Fred says:
16 May 2012

I preferred the home made wind. Where do I buy a kit?

The real problem is that we have managed to destroy the old “pub” culture, where young drinkers were initiated into the fold by their elders as privileged members, and standards of behaviour applied. The culture has changed to drinking with the goal of getting drunk rather than as a relaxational or companiable pastime.

Thanks to the decline of the pub as a purely social centre, drink prices there have risen – supermarket prices are low, so they ‘pre-drink’ on cheapo stuff before going out.

The other cultural aspect of today is that everything has to be ‘extreme’. Same applies to alcolhol consumption. My generation never used to have trays of “shots” to be downed in one. Maybe a pint and a chaser, but…

Robint says:
16 May 2012

right said Fred

we were only saying that the other night in my traditional local

5 pubs have closed this year alone, 2 in the high st and 3 on the outskirts

My local only keeps going cos the owner has a good city job and the pub is a hobby to keep his wife off the streets

Having said that we have a loyal and lively bunch of regulars (just not enough of us even at £2.90 for real ale best bitter)


Absolutely right, though others might not understand the humour.

At least you can edit your embarrassing mistakes while the rest of us wait patiently.

Robint says:
16 May 2012

Has anyone thought about the business incentive this will create for the criminal gangs?

If a bottle of 70cl vodka @37.5% abv now costs ca £14 compare with

home version quadruple distilled, carbon filtered top quality

100cl @50% abv can be made for ca £3

All you rocket scientists out there do the math

Now if the unscrupulous start selling moonshine, potentially impure and poisonous the price drops to £1 but no one should ever drink that stuff cos you will be dead in 2 years or less

So much for the benefits to the Health budget

Can anyone tell me why this government never seems to get anything right?


Fred says:
16 May 2012

“Can anyone tell me why this government never seems to get anything right?”

The last one didn’t get much right either – staying out of the Euro seems to be about it really.

pete says:
16 May 2012

I read today about how the new minimum price for alcohol will save lot of people and NHS time and money and we should all be happy as it will only hit binge drinkers but hardly effect the rest .
I do not however subscribe to this yes if I pay £ 10 to £15 for my bottle of wine I will not see a differences but the rest of us will ( and before you anyone asks I do not drink much maximum of 2 to 3 glasses of cider per month )
This has nothing to do with fixing the problem that I do agree exists, but is just an easy head line to say we are fixing the problem.
Why not actually do something like restrict the number of places you can get alcohol it use to be only wine merchants or an off sales in a bar could sell alcohol now it is every single shop or petrol station can.
Inform the all bars that if they do not start enforcing the no sale of alcohol to people in their bars who are obviously drunk they will forfeit their license AND ACTUALLY ENFORCE THIS not just say they will.
This problem is very large the suggestion of price fixing just means people like me will be a little worse of and the binge drinkers will switch to spirits as they will be the same price as cheap cider and beer also we will have the booze runs to other parts of the UK where it is not applied starting so we will have more illegal sales of alcohol not less.
This could also actually increase the amount of alcohol consumed by people not reduce
This bill should be killed and existing laws actually enforced this may not good headlines but has a hell of a lot more chance of working than this poor PR stunt

Robint says:
16 May 2012

Yes quite right, the existing licensing laws make it an offence for a landlord to sell any more drink to someone who is already drunk. Its a difficult law to enforce in practical terms except where a customer arrives at the pub already clearly incapable. You can then refuse service, but someone who has been in and enjoyed a surfeit through out the night will present a problem.

FYI when I worked in Texas, the bar keep could be held legally liable to arrest if a customer got drunk and went out and caused trouble/damage becasue you had served him drink. So if you look a bit OTT then you wont get anymore sauce.

Having different minimum prices across a border should be avoided.

Here we go again, the sensible majority will be financially penalised for the silly minority. Education is the only long term way to reduce this problem, if the educated minority abuse the pleasure of drinking, make them pay for the services used or the damage done by their actions. Simples!

I’m not sure what ‘simples’ is, but I am not convinced that the sensible majority buy the sort of cheap and nasty booze sold in bulk by supermarkets. Anyone likely to be drinking this could be drinking rather more alcohol than is good for them.

I forgot to say that I absolutely agree with you about the need for education, Trevor. We have had some rather gruesome TV advertising about the consequences of drinking and driving, so perhaps the same could be done to illustrate the health and social consequences of both binge drinking and drinking too much.

Fred says:
17 May 2012

Hmm, a lot of the binge drinking culprits are undergraduate students, allegedly some of the best educated people in the land.

We’ve educated people about smoking for years, and they still do it. I myself smoked for over 30 years and for most of that time, the more I was told not to do it, the more I rebelled against “authority”. My daughter, when small, used to lecture my wife and myself about stopping smoking, then started herself at University as part of the “social” scene. The only way to stop binge drinking is to change that culture, and you won’t do it through just “education”. Social pressure and status needs to play a part, but there will be no quick fixes, and just blindly jacking up prices on booze is doomed to fail. As others have said it will just fuel the black market and generate huge amounts of wealth for criminals, effect a net loss on tax revenue for the Government and cause unhappiness for the responsible, moderate drinkers.

Politicians (of all parties) need to stop knee jerking in response to media criticism and start taking a long term view. It’s short termism which has created most of the global economy and social problems today, and it needs to stop.

All4One_One4All says:
17 May 2012

People who drink to excess are hooked, just as people who smoke are hooked, and people in these categories are irrational (“I can give up any time, I just don’t want to!”) and selfish. Raising the price of these items will divert money away from other more important necessities.

I knew a woman who as a young teenager about 25 years ago had a Christmas with no presents because there was, according to her parents, no money. Sometime that Christmas day, she was given a £5 note and told to go to the local garage for fags, and so she set off through the snow wearing open toed sandals (the only shoes she had) to buy fags for her selfish mother who put her smoking addiction above the welfare of her daughter.

Tthe only people who will be affected by this legislation are those who purchase alcohol in moderation as a treat, and those whose welfare is dependent on parents who are alcoholics.

This legislation will not affect the target sector. However, it will raise extra revenue for a government desperately seeking the means to pay for the previous government’s ludicrously extravagant borrowing, and current financial commitments that the country cannot afford such as the current cast-iron gold-plated public sector pensions.

Robint says:
17 May 2012

High Guys

Something that is conveniently overlooked by the Industry cynically targetting youngsters (and the Government benefiting from tax) is that Alcohol has a devastating effect on the development of the vital organs of young people. These organs dont stop growing till 25 so the alcoholic poison is stunting the growth of these organs during delicate early years.

You only have to look at picture of youngsters who started heavy drinking at 9-11 years and then see them 5 years later. They look like 45 years olds in their faces and they are characterised by their small puny bodies.

Not to mention the effect on unborn babies

Our High st becomes a no-go area at weekends as police kettle the youngsters into a local nightclub – worse than Beirut. Their behaviour is aggressive and anti social as they have already pre-loaded on Supermarket vodka before they came out. The gangs of girls are the worst. Where do they get the money?

As a drinker for over 50 years,it seems to me that the ABV of drinks has increased greatly.A “session” beer in my youth was probably around 3.5% and an evening spent drinking 6 to 8 pints would result in pleasant inebriation rather than extreme drunkeness,which would be the result of a similar evening on modern beers.Similarly wines which would be 9 to 10% for white and 11 to 12% for reds are now much stronger. Would it not be an idea to introduce a threshold of say 4.5% for beers & lagers and ciders, 12.5% for wines and 37.5% for spirits and include alcopops in the beer category,and introduce a tax for drinks above these levels.

Robint says:
19 May 2012

Ah Mr B
You must remember the days of Watneys Red Barrel. It was the first of the keg beer process and the insipid drink was universally hated and inspired to formation of CAMRA. It was so weak at less than 3% that it almost didnt need a license and could be sold as shandy (<2.5%).
But you are quite right, you could drink that stuff all night and hardly notice any improper behaviour
There are some "Session"beers around (my local always has one). But it is the machismo culture of strong drinkers and images of sexy girls aided and abetted by the drinks industry that is to blame. In Belgium they have Trappist beers going from 5.5% up to 13%. They dont have a problem over there, its not their culture and its no coincidence that the super breweries havent been able to gobble up all their 400+ small town breweries, close them down and turn customers onto industrial flavour water with high abv and a macho image

IMHO alcohol advertising must be banned in the media (we did it for smoking for health reasons so why not alcohol for health and social order concerns)

I agree with you about the increase in strength of beers over the years, bigelmtree. I would not wish to be drinking in rounds if you want 6 to 8 pints. You must have hollow legs.

Last September the tax on beers up to 2.8% alcohol was decreased to allow beers to be sold for about 50 pence less, but I have only seen one offering in a pub and there was no price reduction.

I look for beers around 3.6% ABV, though I will always make an exception for Thornbridge Jaipur IPA at 5.9%. In half pints, of course. 🙂

Robint says:
20 May 2012

Thornbridge, I’d never heard of that one – had to look it up. Its in the Peak District of Home grown hum grumits. Its certainly a classy operation from the pix. Jaipur looks like one of those IPAs thats trying to look like lager. Perhaps they are aiming at the lady market but at 5.9%, aren’t they out of control enough already? Go for broke and try the Bracia?

BTW tax and vat account for around 1/3rd of every pint with a typical cost of around £3.50

I agree with lowering alcohol content down to say 3.5% (normal beers in the US are like this) and pubs being able to sell it at £2.50 so the working man can still enjoy his tipple

In Sweden they have a state brewery Pripps 3.5%. Anything over that has to be sold through the state shop System Bolaget. They have strict rules about how much can be bought per day. The strong beer is 3 times the cost. They have a few pubs but mostly you have to drink in a restaurant with a family atmosphere. Swedes complain that their country is the most boring in the world.

Norway is even worse where you pay £12 pint – but paradoxically the national hobby is Hejmbrunt – moonshine spirits brewed at home to which the authorities turn a blind eye. The alcohol permitted in the blood for driving is Zero%. If you got to a house party at 6pm, by 6.30 everyone will be under the table. They dont know how to drink socially cos they’ve no pubs
Having said that Bergen has a very lively pub/folk culture if you can afford it and is closely connected to Newcastle by a ferry thats been going 400 years.

I only mention this to show how different countries deal with the problem

Jaipur IPA is an experience and absolutely not something made to appeal to lager drinkers. You are thinking about most other IPAs that do not deserve to use the name – which should imply a strong and very bitter pale beer. I have not tried Bracia (10% abv), but strong beers are not a problem if drunk in moderation. I have never heard of teenagers drinking barley wine (a strong, sweet beer sold in small bottles) before setting off for city centre pubs and clubs.

I am very much in favour of the cost of beer and cider relating to the alcohol content, both in pubs and supermarkets.

Sophie Gilbert says:
22 May 2012

Education isn’t any more a panacea than a minimum price for alcohol is: some doctors smoke, some have rubbish diets, and some drink too much. What we need is a mixture (bold italics) of measures: education, fewer places where you can buy alcohol, empowering bar staff, a change of culture (no, it isn’t glorious if you can’t hold your liquor/don’t know when to stop), etc, etc, etc, AND, maybe, a minimum price for alcohol. Why not give the latter a TRY? I don’t recall Nicola Sturgeon or anyone else actually saying that introducing a minimum price for alcohol was going to be THE end of alcohol abuse!

I agree, Sophie. We certainly have to try something and accept that we might not find the solution at the first attempt.

I wonder if it would help to video people when they are drunk. The embarrassment of seeing yourself worse for wear might be useful in dealing with the problem.

Sophie Gilbert says:
23 May 2012

I think that for videoing people when they’re drunk, basically for showing and shaming to have the desired effect, cutting humour in a caption or subtitles would have to be used. Without this the videos would become a badge of honour among some, but nobody likes to be laughed at.

Robint says:
24 May 2012

Education OMG – do your disenfranchised kids get any these days? Coming out of school without even managing the 3 R’s
Its a nice idea Sophie, trying to show young drunks up, but the problem group have got nothing and nothing to lose or to look forward to. You only have to look at Youtube to see what really dumb things are shown. They dont care – could be one of those badges amongst their peer group. Look what they do with phone cameras. No censorship there and when these kids grow up their foolish pix taken willingly or not will be around to haunt their future

Ban alcohol advertising

shroppy says:
23 May 2012

I think its a affront to the citizens of our country that they are to be penalised for the actions of the minority, Its probably sad but lots of people actually enjoy sitting at home drinking so called cheap beer watching tv etc.Personally I don’t think its all that cheap, a lot of people are only able to buy it when its on special offer and I don’t believe its a loss leader .Lots of pubs are closing due to greedy breweries and succesive tax wasting governments so some peoples choice of entertainment is limited.As for the mayhem on the streets give the police the backbone and resources to enforce the current laws that are being ignored and force the miscreants to pay the full price of their actions.The government departments should also desist in quoting how many units of alcohol they recommend until they get a bonafide scientific study completed to prove the claims , we have been drinking in this country for many hundreds of years with little effect on the sensible majority.

There have been plenty of scientific studies on the effect of alcohol. It is well known that alcohol affects different people in different ways and the consequences of drinking are highly dependent on many factors. Probably all we can be sure of is that doing another study will cost money and generate no new information. There may be a need to help the public understand just how much research has been done on alcohol in the western world.

Robint says:
23 May 2012

We have been at it for hundreds of years. Remember the 18C Gin houses that nearly brought down the government cos Londoners were so laggerd on the new fashion for Gin from Holland

One must remember that studies on health matters are nearly alway biased towrds their sponsors. Doctors are not the best judge of affects of alcohol on health because they only ever get to see sick people who have been baddly affected. No one has ever explained why some people fall sick or become alcoholics and why others dont or otherwise manage their lives without undue concern. Its well known that tolerance to alcohol does build up and those who have been social drinkers all their lives hardly give cause for concern. Yet paradoxically other sectors are particularly vulnerable to even small amounts of alcohol – young girls for example – hence the popularity in my day of Cherry Bee and Babycham where one tiny bottle was sufficient.
For example the east asians are known to lack the proper enzymes in their livers to metabolise alcohol so small amounts have disastrous effects

So making crass assumptions about whats ok to drink is too much nanny state

I come back to my point earlier – the youth are at the greatest risk and the hypocritical Gov must ban alcohol advertising cos its targetted at the young. Of course we can make an exception for Sanatogen

Course its no small coincidence that the Gov makes a small tax fortune from the revenue so do they care that much?

Though some people have a high tolerance to alcohol and manage to lead normal lives without causing social problems, this does not mean that they are not being harmed. There is clear evidence of an increased risk of cancer, for example.

The fact that some people do cause mayhem when they get drunk and the cost of dealing with alcohol-related illness, which the taxpayer has to pay for, means that the government cannot ignore the problem. I don’t really see this as nannying. I don’t know the answers but I’m prepared to accept that we have a problem.

Although doctors may have to deal with acute or chronic alcohol-related problems, there have been good scientific studies of the effects of alcohol on the human body.

Doreen says:
10 June 2014

I don’t think there is an easy answer to this problem. However, years ago when pubs had strict opening times ie 11am to 3.00pm, 6pm to 10.00pm Monday to Saturday, and 12noon to 2pm, 7pm to 10.00pm Sunday, people could not drink all day and had to go home. When supermarkets and shops obtained extended opening hours they could not sell alcohol outside of the licencing hours. But then the police used to enforce the law of ‘drunk and disorderly’. Why not now? A large part of the problem is caused by unlimited drinking hours, which the breweries and pub chains want because they make huge profits. Also the cheap multiple shorts on offer in the pubs, again for big profit, and also nowadays, no-one seems to be accountable for drunken behaviour.