I could have predicted that the SNP’s flagship minimum pricing policy on alcohol was doomed to failure, but now we have the proof.
Alcohol deaths in Scotland have reached the highest level in 13 years, with 1,245 people dying from drink-related causes in 2021, the largest death toll since 2008, according to the National Records of Scotland (NRS).
As I have written previously in this column, my mother was an alcoholic who drank herself to death in 2001, at the age of 54.
Anyone who knows a chronic alcoholic will tell you that it doesn’t matter what the minimum price of the booze is, they will simply cut back on other things – like food – to fund their habit.
By introducing a minimum unit price of 50p, all the SNP has really succeeded in doing is make the poorest drinkers even poorer while also hitting responsible drinkers in the pocket. (The NRS also found the death rate was 5.6 times higher in Scotland’s poorest communities than in the wealthiest.)
Incredibly, some are arguing that the solution is to increase the minimum unit price even further – to 65p – doubling down on a policy that just hasn’t worked.
The only thing that gets a heavy drinker to cut back on their consumption, however, is therapy.
Yet the SNP has also failed to help those addicted to drugs, with the death tally falling by less than 1 per cent last year.
Each and every one of these deaths is a tragedy for the person who couldn’t get help and their families.
The problem has got worse in lockdown and still there is no plan to curb this mounting crisis.
As Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, has pointed out: “Unless urgent investment is poured into treatment services, there is no hope for turning this tragic trend around.”