A CANADIAN study which claims the country's minimum alcohol pricing laws have helped curb drinking has been hailed by the Scottish Government as the "first concrete evidence" that the policy could help tackle Scotland's own drinking culture.

Researchers at the University of Victoria's Centre for Addictions Research examined data spanning two decades, looking at the effect of minimum pricing policies on alcohol consumption in British Columbia.

They found that a 10% increase in minimum prices of all alcoholic drinks led to a 3.4% reduction in consumption.

The centre's director, Tim Stockwell, said: "This is significant information for policies to prevent the substantial toll of death, injury and illness associated with hazardous alcohol use. Our results support having a standard minimum price per standard drink for all alcoholic beverages as a cornerstone of alcohol problem prevention."

Minimum prices in British Columbia vary by alcohol type, with spirits priced differently than beer, wine and alcopops.

However, under the current rules one 341ml bottle of beer with an 8% alcohol content may not be sold for less than $1.21 (78 pence) or 75 cents (50 pence) for a "standard drink" – such as a small glass of wine or an alcopop with 5% alcohol content.

Chris Auld, co-author of the study, said: "Further research will assess which drinkers and which alcohol-caused harms respond most to minimum prices, yet our initial results suggest minimum pricing effectively reduces drinking."

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the findings provided "the first concrete evidence that minimum pricing does impact on alcohol consumption".