I REMEMBER the last time I saw my mother; we were in a ward in Glasgow Royal Infirmary. My six-year-old mind didn’t understand it at the time, but my mother was dying. Her face and hands were yellow, as were the “whites” of her eyes. Years of alcohol abuse were finally taking their toll and her internal organs were beginning to shut down. She spoke softly but seemed to me every bit herself. I know now that she was bravely trying to act as though there was nothing wrong with her, for my sake, despite the visible signs of her illness.

My mother was an alcoholic. She drank cheap cider and cheap vodka every day. She also suffered from a plethora of other mental health issues including agoraphobia, anxiety and depression. I’m not sure which of these was the cause and which was the effect. Maybe she drank to deal with her mental health problems, or maybe she suffered mental health problems because she drank. I don’t know. My mother’s organs finally gave up and she died in hospital a few days later.

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The debate on minimum pricing for alcohol in Scotland therefore has a particular personal importance for me. The Scottish Parliament passed the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 with the intention of tackling problem drinkers – people like my mother, who drank cheap, high-strength alcohol on a daily basis. This type of problem drinking is typically concentrated in the most deprived areas of Scotland. We lived in Easterhouse, then she moved to Parkhead, both in the east-end of Glasgow, where problem drinking is rife.

Scotland has a serious problem with alcohol abuse. Undoubtedly, part of this is down to affordability. Scottish Government figures show that alcohol is now 54 per cent more affordable than it was in 1980. And it is possible to exceed the 14 units per week alcohol guideline for less than £3.

The legislation would introduce a minimum price of 50p per unit, which would mean that a cheap bottle of supermarket own-brand vodka would cost at least £14. Research carried out by the University of Sheffield found that the benefits of minimum pricing would be greatest amongst harmful drinkers, with an estimated 81 per cent reduction in premature deaths. The Scottish Government estimates that alcohol-related deaths would fall by 120 per year and alcohol-related hospital admissions by 2000 per year, by year 20 of the policy.

The Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) have halted the implementation of the legislation with a legal challenge. The case has been before both the inner and the outer houses of the Court of Session, the European Court of Justice and this week, the UK Supreme Court. The SWA argues that minimum pricing is a “disproportionate” restriction of the free movement of goods. They have publicly expressed concern that this legislation could be copied in other EU nations which would result in damage to the Scotch whisky industry, and Scotland’s wider economy. The Supreme Court is expected to issue its judgment later this year.

I am not convinced by the arguments advanced by the industry in this case. Problem drinkers in our most deprived communities are not consuming high-priced whisky. In fact, the price of branded whisky is actually unlikely to be affected by the legislation. The Scotch Whisky Association are merely spearheading a campaign on behalf of those drinks manufacturers who profit from the sale of cheap, high-strength alcohol.

Meanwhile, Scotland continues to suffer the devastating effects of problem drinking. It is evident in our pubs and clubs, in our communities and in our homes. I experienced this first-hand as a child. This is not about numbers on a spreadsheet. This is a public health issue. This is the lives of wee boys and wee girls up and down this country who walk home from school every day not knowing whether they are going home to someone who will be fit to look after them. The Scottish Government must be allowed to protect these families.

I accept that minimum pricing is not a silver bullet and it must be introduced alongside health, education and poverty-reducing measures. I can’t say that minimum pricing would have saved my mother’s life. But it would have stopped her from being able to drink the most harmful types of alcohol. That might have prolonged her life long enough for other measures to help her. It might have given her time to address her mental health issues and she might be here today.

I don’t know. Minimum pricing is not a magic wand, but it is a step in the right direction.

I believe that this legislation will save lives and I hope that it can be implemented as soon as possible, alongside other measures, so that we tackle this problem and develop a healthier relationship with alcohol as a nation.