A SCOTTISH minister has slated the “inappropriate” behaviour of a Tory MSP after he clashed with a charity boss over minimum unit pricing in a public meeting.

At a meeting of Holyrood’s health committee this week, Dr Sandesh Gulhane claimed estimates on the number of lives saved by MUP are under “intense scrutiny” and sought answers from a panel of alcohol charity witnesses on how it had affected dependent drinkers.

Throughout his questioning, Gulhane repeatedly interrupted Justina Murray, chief executive of Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol & Drugs, claiming statistics produced to date were not significant.

Murray hit back at him saying families are “frustrated that this is still being debated so many years down the line”.

When Gulhane said the evidence around hospital admissions was not “statistically significant”, Murray responded: “I’m here as a charity CEO, I’m not going to start arguing with you over statistical significance. I think you should be focussing on the fact that MUP has saved lives.

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Nervously smiling, she added: “I think you’re possibly the only person in the room […] who doesn’t believe the evidence.”

Maree Todd, who previously worked as a hospital pharmacist for NHS Highland, said she felt Gulhane’s line of questioning was “entirely inappropriate”.

She added she was “astonished” a health professional would advocate against the “powerful” policy.

The social care, mental wellbeing and sport minister said: “It seemed entirely inappropriate to turn his ire against her [Justina Murray].

“As a health professional myself, I cannot think of a single colleague who doesn’t think that this policy is a fantastic idea.

“Scotland should be incredibly proud of it. We took on the vested interests of those who work in alcohol and put the health of our nation first.

“What astonished me about Sandesh Gulhane’s actions was, I’m a health professional too, and I found it hard to imagine any health professional advocating against such a powerful public health policy.

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“I don’t think there will be many GPs working in the west of Scotland or anywhere in Scotland who don’t acknowledge the challenge we have with alcohol in Scotland and don’t think the government ought to pursue public health policies that change our relaltionship with alcohol.

"He's quite out of step with the health professional community in the lines he is pursuing."

SNP MSP Keith Brown said Gulhane's "hatred of the SNP" made him look "foolish" during the exchange.

MUP is estimated to have reduced the amount people drink alcohol by 3% since it was introduced in Scotland in 2018, while it has been linked to a 4.1% reduction in hospital admissions and a 13.4% reduction in deaths directly caused by alcohol.

But researchers found recent high levels of inflation and the fact heavier drinkers increased their alcohol consumption during the coronavirus crisis may have cancelled out many of the benefits.

This has not been helped by the fact MUP was arguably not set at the right level when it was implemented at 50p per unit.

The policy was approved in 2012 but was then held up in the courts for six years because of a legal challenge led by the Scotch Whisky Association.

Experts argue by the time MUP was implemented, it should have been set at around 58p per unit rather than 50p.

The Scottish Government has recently consulted the public on plans to uprate MUP to 65p and a statement is set to be given at Holyrood tomorrow on the latest progress.