CHARITIES and medics have backed calls to increase the minimum unit price for alcohol in Scotland to 65 pence.

In a letter to Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and Public Health Minister Maree Todd, they warn that the pandemic "may have undermined the initial health gains" of the initiative and that current rate of 50 pence per unit - first approved by the Scottish Parliament nine years ago - "has likely been eroded by inflation".

The original modelling for minimum unit pricing (MUP) calculated that setting it at 60 pence per unit would save twice as many lives and hospital admissions as 50p per unit, while 70p was expected to deliver three times the effect.

The MUP came into force in Scotland in 2018 following lengthy legal challenges from the alcohol industry.

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In the two years following its introduction, there was a reduction in alcohol consumption and in hospital admissions for alcohol-related liver conditions.

Scotland also saw a 10 per cent decrease in the number of alcohol-specific deaths in 2019, but a change in drinking patterns during the pandemic has been blamed for a 17% spike in alcohol deaths last year.

Alcohol Focus Scotland and the Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), have been campaigning for an increase in MUP to 65 pence, pushing the price of a bottle of wine to no less than £6.50 and a one litre bottle of whisky to at least £26.

They are backed today by representatives of 28 organisations including Scotland's medical royal colleges, the Faculty of Public Health, and the Violence Reduction Unit.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said: “We need to off-set both the effects of inflation and of the pandemic, and adjust the minimum unit price to a level that will save more lives and prevent a new generation from developing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.”

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The Scottish Government committed to review the price within two years of MUP being implemented, but this has been delayed by the pandemic.

It says it continues to keep the level of MUP "under review" and "will consider all relevant emerging evidence”.

Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, chair of SHAAP, said Scotland "cannot afford to wait any longer".

He added: "This support from a wide range of organisations shows that experts in public health and beyond believe increasing the minimum unit price is the right thing to do."