Proposals to raise the minimum unit price of alcohol have raised fears among workers in Scotland's drinks industry that jobs in the sector will be put at risk.

A minimum price (MUP) of 50p per unit was introduced in 2018, with the Scottish Government proposing that this be raised to 65p.

In June, Public Health Scotland released a final evaluation of the policy which found that hundreds of deaths were prevented by the policy but that there was "limited evidence" that it reduced consumption among the heaviest drinkers.

The report found that increasing the minimum price would both exacerbate the beneficial and harmful effects of the policy, with the latter including evidence that poorer drinkers with alcohol dependency cut back on food as alcohol costs rose.

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Under the 65p MUP, a 700ml bottle of Scotch whisky would cost a minimum of £18.20, while a bottle of vodka or gin would have a minimum price of £17.07.

A pack of four 440ml cans of cider would cost at least £5.15, while a pack of four beer cans of the same size would cost at least £5.72.

GMB Scotland, the biggest union in the sector, surveyed members on the Scottish Government’s proposal to increase the MUP.

Most (64%) said the MUP should be scrapped entirely while almost a third (32%) did not believe it should be increased.

The union said minimum unit pricing increased the cost of the cheapest drinks and is already effectively a tax on the poorest Scots.

It said an MUP of 65 pence would be 30% higher than when it was introduced - while wages have only increased by 1.14% in the same period when adjusted for inflation.

The union also highlighted opinion polls revealing falling public support for minimum unit pricing and official statistics suggesting alcohol-related deaths have increased year-on-year.

One distillery worker told researchers: “Increasing the minimum unit price will only have a detrimental effect on one of the Scotland’s success stories.

“Why is the government intent on penalising a sector that employs thousands of people across the country?”

Another drinks industry worker taking part in the survey told the union: “Minimum pricing has not worked. It has only increased the profits of the supermarkets and off licences that sell alcohol.

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“If the government had not wanted to make a difference, the extra tax should have been used to fund more alcohol awareness centres and treatment facilities.

David Hume, GMB Scotland organiser in the drinks industry, said: “There is simply no case for continuing to impose a minimum unit price on alcohol never mind increasing it.

“The jury is out on the policy’s impact on Scotland’s drinking but alcohol-related deaths are rising and there is no evidence to suggest it is helping protect problem drinkers.

“The actual impact of minimum pricing is at best questionable and ministers should be asking those questions instead of doubling down by increasing it.

“Meanwhile, workers in the drinks industry, our members, report pay being squeezed and a chill on investment that will risk growth and jobs in one of Scotland’s most important sectors.

“Instead of pursuing policies that undermine this crucial industry, ministers should bolster it with an industrial strategy capable of improving skills and pay and boosting investment.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Recent expert research estimated that our world-leading Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) policy has saved hundreds of lives, likely averted hundreds of alcohol-attributable hospital admissions each year, and is having an effect in our most deprived areas. 

“A Public Health Scotland (PHS) report published earlier this year indicated that economic performance of the alcoholic drinks industry in Scotland had not been significantly impacted by the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP).

“We’re determined to do all we can to reduce alcohol-related harm, and are already working closely with Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and the third sector to reduce alcohol-related harms. 

“Last year £106 million was made available to Alcohol and Drugs Partnerships to support local and national initiatives to improve treatment.”