THE Scottish Government has been urged to go further in its crackdown on cheap alcohol, by a group of health organisations demanding a radical strategy from Westminster and all the devolved administrations.

Minimum unit pricing, already passed as legislation in Scotland, but awaiting the outcome of a legal challenge by the Scotch whisky industry, was unanimously placed at the top of its list for action among concerns that England and Wales should not be left behind on the issue.

Of the 70 organisations involved, 32 – including Royal Colleges and medical societies – have formed Alcohol Health Alliance UK, which has worked with Stirling University to produce today's report, Health First: An evidence-based alcohol strategy for the UK.

This contains "no-nonsense" policies on pricing, taxation, licensing hours, labelling, advertising, drink-driving limits, and the response of the medical professions.

Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: "Governments across the UK have begun to take action to reduce the harm that alcohol can cause. This is very welcome but needs to go further.

"In developing this strategy, we considered the best available evidence about appropriate policies and interventions needed both to reduce drinking levels in individuals and reduce the damage to families and communities that alcohol can cause. The report provides a blueprint for action, now and in the future."

Professor Linda Bauld, of Stirling University, who led the project, said there was strong support from the public. She said: "A UK survey we conducted with YouGov showed the majority of people think our relationship with alcohol is unhealthy and are aware of the significant impact it has on health, crime and disorder and the NHS.

"We found support for introducing warning labels on bottles, minimum unit pricing, restrictions on advertising and access to support and treatment for people addicted to alcohol."

The strategy also has the backing of the British Liver Trust, whose chief executive, Andrew Langford, said: "The UK is seeing a year-on-year increase in alcohol-related deaths, especially liver disease. We must all do something now to start to tackle this avoidable epidemic."

Health Secretary Alex Neil said the report endorsed many of the actions taken or planned in Scotland, with six out of the 10 proposals being taken forward. "It reaffirms that setting a minimum unit price is one of the most effective measures that a government can introduce to tackle alcohol misuse," he said.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association has launched a campaign against minimum pricing, called Why Should Responsible Drinkers Pay More? Chief executive Miles Beale said: "Consumers are opposed to minimum unit pricing. They do not think it is fair that responsible drinkers should have to pay more because of the actions of a minority of irresponsible drinkers. Not everyone who looks for value in their shopping is a binge-drinker."