SCOTLAND’S minimum unit price for alcohol could be in place by May, Shona Robison has announced.

The Scottish Health Secretary revealed the proposed implementation date for the policy, which was last week given the green light by Supreme Court justices.

While MSPs voted through legislation for a 50p per unit minimum price for alcohol in 2012, a legal challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), which argued the policy breached European laws, delayed its introduction.

The case went to the highest court in Scotland and the European Court of Justice before ending up at the UK Supreme Court.

The SWA said last Wednesday it accepted the decision, and Robison confirmed to MSPs that the organisation would pay the Scottish Government’s legal costs.

Scotland will be the first country in the world to introduce a minimum unit pricing for alcohol, with Robison saying this could be in place in less than six months’ time.

She said: “Minimum unit pricing of alcohol has been delayed far too long. During the court cases lives have been lost. That is why I will move to implement as soon as is practicable.”

A consultation on the regulations that will set the minimum unit price will begin in December, with ministers proposing that the order setting the minimum price will be laid before the Scottish Parliament at the start of March 2018.

Robison said the order would state the Scottish Government’s intended implementation date of May 1 2018.

The Health Secretary said: “Next May, we take a huge step forwards in tackling one of Scotland’s enduring health harms. Minimum unit pricing of alcohol can help to turn the tide on alcohol harm, and May 1 will be a landmark moment.”

Opposition politicians asked Robison if she was confident 50p was still an “appropriate” level

Robison confirmed this remained the intended minimum unit price, but said that as more than five years had passed since Holyrood approved the legislation there would be a fresh consultation.

She highlighted the “high and enduring levels of alcohol-related harm Scotland experiences” as she urged all political parties to unite to “tackle the scourge of cheap, high-strength alcohol causing so much damage across our nation”.

Alcohol misuse costs Scotland an estimated £3.6 billion a year – the equivalent of £900 for every adult. New figures from the NHS showed alcohol resulted in 36,235 admissions to hospital in 2016-17, an increase of two per cent on the previous year. Separate figures published in August showed there were 1,265 alcohol- related deaths in 2016, a rise of 10 per cent from 2015.

Robison said: “On average, alcohol misuse causes about 697 hospital admissions and 24 deaths a week in Scotland. Let me be clear – that is wholly unacceptable.”

Minimum unit pricing will target the “low-price, high-alcohol-content products” that can currently be sold for as little as 18p per unit, the Health Secretary said.

How Iceland turned youngsters off drink and on to sports

ICELAND had one of the worst problems in Europe with teenage problem drinking in the 1980s and 1990s, but a series of initiatives have proved transformative.

In 1998, 42 per cent of those aged 15 or 16 said they had been drunk in the past month. This figure dropped to five per cent last year.

A law change saw it become illegal to buy alcohol under the age of 20, and the advertising of tobacco and alcohol was banned. 

Links between parents and school were strengthened and parents were encouraged to attend talks on the importance of spending a quantity of time with their children rather than occasional “quality time”.

Legislation was also passed prohibiting children aged between 13 and 16 from being outside after 10pm in winter and midnight in summer. 

State funding was increased for organised sport, music, art, dance and other clubs, to give children and young people alternative ways to feel part of a group.

In Reykjavik, for instance, where more than a third of the country’s population lives, a leisure card gives families a subsidy to pay for recreational activities.

Over time, the number of 15-year-olds participating in a sports club four or more times a week almost doubled – from 23 per cent in 2000 to 43 per cent in 2014 – improving the quality of sportsmen and women representing the country into the bargain.

In addition, every year the Icelandic Centre for Social Research and Analysis surveys children and young people aged 10 to 19 on issues such as drug and alcohol use and how they feel. Councils receive the results, and monitor the effectiveness of policies against them.