The Scottish Government will consult on whether to increase its 50p minimum unit price for alcohol before the “ground-breaking” scheme comes into effect on May 1.
Opposition leaders questioned whether 50p was sufficient yesterday as Health Secretary Shona Robison revealed the proposed implementation date.
The SNP minister said the government would “listen” to views during the consultation but that there was a “lot of evidence” for keeping it at the originally suggested level.
The minimum alcohol price, which was passed by MSPs five years ago, was finally given the go ahead by the Supreme Court last week after a legal challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) was rejected.
Ms Robison confirmed in the Scottish Parliament yesterday that the SWA had agreed to pay the Scottish Government’s legal costs for the case, expected to be in excess of £500,000.
She said: “Minimum unit pricing of alcohol has been delayed far too long. During the court cases, lives have been lost. That is why I will move to implement as soon as is practicable.”
A consultation on the regulations which will set the minimum unit price will begin in December, with ministers proposing that the order setting the minimum price will be laid before the Scottish Parliament at the start of March, with the intended implementation date being May 1.
Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie both asked whether the 50p rate remained appropriate, five years after it was agreed.
Ms Robison said: “We are going to consult and we will hear the views of that consultation but we believe there is very much a lot of evidence for maintaining the 50p price.”
She added: “We will listen to the consultation responses but that consultation will go out still advocating the Scottish Government’s position of a 50p minimum unit price.”