LIKE most people I’ve done the walk of shame to the bottle bank. Neighbours were in for the Bells and friends and family on Ne’erday. Significant alcohol was consumed as the debris confirmed. More than we should have, but it was a special occasion. Alcohol is there to be enjoyed and even sometimes abused. I’ve done more than my share of it, with both shame and regrets.

This New Year, though, was tinged with sadness through the loss of a dear friend days before 2017 dawned. A year younger than me, he should have had years left with his grandchildren. Instead, his children were at his bedside as he slipped away. Afflicted by alcoholism, his body finally succumbed to the years of abuse from booze and fags; and doubtless a spirit broken by a life that had long since lost its joy.

Knowing this gentle soul gave me an insight into those who suffer from addiction. Alcoholism ran in his family and there was a fatalism about it throughout his life but, sadly, not an ability to overcome it. Hopefully, medical science can help those with what I am sure is a genetic propensity to addiction. Moreover, a lack of self-confidence despite his huge natural talents saw him use it as a crutch. Too soon it got a grip, from which he couldn’t escape. New Year wasn’t the same without him, as he had a fine voice and came into his own at parties.

Alcohol is enjoyed by our society and good for our economy but it’s about balance and regulation. It’s free choice and no one makes you drink. The ultimate responsibility lies with the individual. But we can act as a society with what is a licensed drug. It's why we have licensing laws and need to regulate not just where and when you can buy it, but the price at which it's sold. Which is why minimum unit pricing (MUP) is needed.

It wouldn’t have saved my friend from the path he took or his ultimate destiny but it would most certainly have prolonged his life. It won’t spare the hangover I and at least a few of my guests had after New Year as it won’t affect the price of the drinks we consumed. Few if any drinks over a bar would be affected and quality products such as Scotch whisky and good beers likewise.

It will, though, tackle the cheap ciders and other such low-cost drinks that my friend had consumed for so long. All the evidence from MUP is that it will save and prolong those lives. I know from my own experience that my pal drank to his budget. Drink he would but less if money was short or the price was high.

It's why we need MUP and the continued opposition to it by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is utterly shameful. They are an organisation that’s hugely well-resourced and assiduous in its lobbying. It expects and demands support from politicians of all parties for its premium product of Scotch whisky. It’s a backing that it uniformly receives in promotion and protection.

The entire country takes pride in the amber nectar. However, there’s no reciprocation from the SWA. They have opposed MUP relentlessly despite the evidence and for their vested self-interest.

The policy started out in the Justice portfolio for tackling crime and anti-social behaviour; reduce alcohol abuse and crime in Scotland plummets. But it was moved to Health to try to garner wider support for its public health benefits.

Wherever it's lain or for whatever purpose it's being pursued, the SWA has opposed it. Some of the most hostile and aggressive lobbying I endured as a minister came from them.

A major distiller that was willing to support the legislation was lent upon and whipped back into line. The former First Minister having been briefed by them assumed the fracture in the relationship was all down to my insensitivity, rather than their dogmatism. However, failed foreign trips to woo major producers showed Alex Salmond otherwise.

Despite the support they receive from their homeland, the SWA has never been prepared to consider its common weal. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. As an alcohol campaigner once said, the name’s a misnomer. They’re not Scotch. Their ownership and interests lie mainly oversee. Nor are they whisky, as in reality it's but a small part of drink portfolios they hold. Portfolios where cheap vodka and cider abound. Finally, whilst an association, they’re mainly multinational companies where profit is the motive not public health.

So, may my friend's troubled soul rest in peace. For his memory, I hope MUP is finally implemented, putting public health before the profits and vested interests of multinational companies.