THE SCOTTISH Liberal Democrats have appealed for a 15 pence increase in the minimum unit price for alcohol - insisting the SNP has allowed inflation to erode the impact of their flagship policy.

At the beginning of Alcohol Awareness Week, Alex Cole-Hamilton, the leader of the Scottish LibDems, has called for the minimum unit price to be increase to 65 pence.

Scotland saw the number of alcohol deaths increase during the pandemic.

A Public Health Scotland report into alcohol sales, published in June, showed that in 2019, 24 per cent of all adults reported exceeding the safe weekly drinking guideline of 14 units a week, down from just over a third in 2003.

The document also revealed that 1,020 deaths were described as "wholly attributable to alcohol" and showed 23,685 people were admitted to hospital with an alcohol-related diagnosis, with some requiring more than one stay in hospital.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: "Alcohol misuse can wreck lives. Even today we are seeing an average of 20 people per week die due to alcohol misuse. That's terrible news for individuals, families and communities.

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“Experts have suggested that raising the minimum unit price to 65p in line with the original ambition of the policy would cut alcohol misuse and reduce the pressure on our health and justice systems.

"Once this step has been taken Scottish Liberal Democrats are keen to see the minimum unit price of alcohol linked to inflation so that the value of the policy does not decrease over time.

“This would send a clear signal about our resolve to win the battle against the bottle. Nicola Sturgeon should come back to Parliament with proposals to take this forward."

Speaking at a Holyrood committee last week, SNP Public Health Minister, Maree Todd, confirmed the Scottish Government has "begun to gather information in order to review the minimum unit pricing of alcohol".

She said: "We saw a rise in alcohol deaths over the course of the pandemic last year. That bucked the trend over a number of years.

"Last year, we saw a 17 per cent increase in such deaths, which was devastating and tragic for those affected."

Ms Todd said the key part of the Scottish Government's "alcohol framework", including prevention work, was the minimum unit price policy.

She added: "I think that that is a wonderful, well-targeted and effective policy.

"We committed to reviewing it within two years of its introduction but, unfortunately, the pandemic prevented us from holding that review. We have begun to gather information in order to review the minimum unit pricing of alcohol."

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We continue to keep the level of the MUP under review, and will consider all relevant emerging evidence.

"A range of factors will need to be taken into account including the impact of the pandemic on the economy, people’s incomes and alcohol affordability.”