A CHECK on the retail prices of alcohol over the festive season shows exactly why we need minimum unit pricing.

The big four supermarkets all offered major discounts on branded beer, wines and spirits. One-litre bottles of spirits were on sale for £14, which works out at 35p per unit. The cheapest product per unit was a cider which was on sale at just 18p per unit.

Anyone wishing to avoid the lure of cheap alcohol would have a very difficult time. Alcohol is promoted as an essential part of everyday life, which creates enormous difficulties for people who are trying to reduce their drinking or are recovering from alcohol dependency. Should they wish to buy an alcohol-free lager or wine, they would find it very difficult to locate these products amongst the rows and rows of alcoholic drinks. In many stores, alcohol-free lager is positioned right beside super-strength lager.

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Minimum pricing will target high-strength drinks sold at the cheapest prices and will have the biggest effect on the heaviest drinkers. The majority of people, particularly those who drink in pubs, clubs and restaurants, will not notice any difference to their pockets. What we will see is a country where fewer people's lives are damaged by alcohol.

By seeking to delay this vital health measure through legal challenge, the Scotch Whisky Association and their European counterparts are following in the footsteps of their colleagues in the tobacco industry. It is quite simply big business putting profit before public health.

These delaying tactics will cost lives in Scotland.

Dr Evelyn Gillan,

Alcohol Focus Scotland,

166 Buchanan Street,