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We invite comments on the proposed minimum price of 50 pence per unit which is set out in the draft Scottish Statutory Instrument at Annex A.

We invite comments on the proposed minimum price of 50 pence per unit which is set out in the draft Scottish Statutory Instrument at Annex A .
Balance welcomes the opportunity to respond to this consultation. The World Health Organization recognises that increasing the price of alcohol is one of the most effective and cost-effective policy measures to reduce alcohol consumption and harm. Balance has long supported the introduction of minimum unit pricing in Scotland and we are pleased to see this measure now being implemented. We believe that minimum unit pricing is a targeted measure which will deliver significant benefits for the health of the poorest groups in society, without costing them more and will reduce health inequality without raising financial inequality. We have long believed that raising alcohol taxes is an important tool in addressing alcohol-related harm and higher taxes. Minimum unit pricing is better targeted at the cheapest alcohol consumed by those most harmed by alcohol and we believe that taxes should be raised in conjunction with minimum unit pricing. Modelling by the University of Sheffield suggests that minimum pricing will save lives, improve health and reduce crime. Balance welcomes the minimum unit pricing of alcohol regulations starting with a 50p per unit minimum price. The 50p rate has been widely discussed, not least in the courts, and we believe it would be unwise to adjust the rate at this point. However, we know from the modelling work that the impact of the 50p rate has been eroded over time. This must not happen once the measure is introduced and we urge the Scottish Government to commit to regular reviews of the unit price to ensure the cheapest alcohol does not become increasingly affordable over time. This should be the job of an independent advisory panel. We welcome the independent evaluation that is to be undertaken by NHS Health Scotland, under the Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) work programme, and hope the results of the studies are monitored carefully to ensure appropriate responses to the findings. Any early results from that evaluation work would be welcome for those of us who want to see the introduction of MUP in England.

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Colin Shevills

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Balance, the North East Alcohol Office