by Peter Wozniak
The Scottish executive has announced its intention to impose a fixed minimum price of 45 pence per unit for alcohol.
The move, as part of the SNP's alcohol bill, is designed to limit the consumption and abuse of alcohol by driving up prices, particular in supermarkets which sell own-brand drinks at well below the market rate.
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP health minister hailed the plans, saying : "It is no coincidence that as the affordability of alcohol has plummeted [sic] in recent decades, alcohol-related deaths, disease, crime and disorder have spiralled.
"I believe it's crucial that we reintroduce realistic alcohol pricing. It cannot be right that a man can exceed his weekly recommended alcohol limit for less than £3.50. That's why we're taking decisive action, including proposals to introduce a minimum price per unit, which would bring these pocket money prices to an end.
"Getting the price right is vital for minimum pricing to work - too low and it will simply be ineffective. After careful consideration, we believe that 45p per unit is the right price."
Opposition parties in the Scottish parliament however are vehemently opposed to the bill, arguing that it penalises responsible drinkers along with those who abuse alcohol.
Given that the SNP governs in Scotland as a minority, the opposition parties could theoretically block the move by voting unanimously against the government's proposals.
The Scottish chief medical officer, Dr Harry Burns, showed support for Ms Sturgeon's statement, saying: "Minimum pricing, as part of a package of wider measures, can help us to redress the balance when it comes to our unhealthy relationship with alcohol."
David Cameron recently authorised for councils in Greater Manchester to begin imposing minimum alcohol pricing as a pilot scheme for England, in a sign the Scottish move could be having repercussions in Westminster.