With alcohol misuse estimated to cost the Scottish economy up to £4.6bn a year, Scottish MPs have voted in favour of a raft of measures thought to be the toughest ever in the UK. However some proposals were not approved, such as a ban on supermarkets awarding loyalty points for booze purchases. Simon Fisher raises a glass, or not as the case may be.
Who: The Scottish Government
When: 10 November 2010
Law stated as at: 1 December 2010
Despite opposition the Scottish government last month approved the Alcohol etc (Scotland) Bill 2010 supporting some of the toughest drinking measures ever introduced in the United Kingdom. These included rules banning off-licences and shops from running cut-price alcohol offers such as discounted bulk-buying and cheap drinks promotions in off-sales.
In addition the bill has put in place stronger age verification requirements, requiring all retailers to ask for proof of age from any purchaser who looks under 25 years old, and has introduced a discretionary "social responsibility" tax which local councils can levy on businesses which profit from the sale of alcohol in the worse affected areas.
However, more stringent proposals to introduce a minimum price of 45 pence per unit for alcholic drinks and to prohibit supermarkets from offering loyalty points, discount vouchers and deals for the sale of alcohol were rejected.
The measures have been supported by the government, law enforcement agencies and health experts who believe the bill will radically cut alcohol misuse and improve wider public health, but there was disappointment that minimum pricing was not introduced despite price being recognised as a significant factor in determining alcohol consumption.
Those contesting the minimum pricing provisions, including opposition policitians and many leading drinks industry bodies, had raised concerns that such measures would unfairly penalise responsible drinkers and would simply lead to alchol being brought across the border from England, but no credible alternative has been proposed.
Why this matters:
The misuse of alcohol is estimated to cost the economy and public services in Scotland around £4.6 billion each year. Scotland has one of the world's fastest growing rates of liver cirrhosis, which is twice that of England, and nearly half of prison inmates in Scotland have admitted to being under the influence of alcohol when they offended.
The Scottish government has invested around £100 million into the prevention and treatment of alcohol misue over the last three years and this latest legislation is park of an ongoing "Alcohol Framework" which is being implemented over time to tackle the issues of alcohol misuse in Scotland.