Now that the UK government has dropped plans to introduce a minimum alcohol pricing strategy, more focus is on the Scottish parliament who are allegedly pushing ahead with their own plans. I strongly suspect that these plans will also be shelved when the mighty Scotch whisky industry stamps it’s feet hard enough though.
However, how would this affect wine if it did go ahead?
On the BBC news there were interviews with Portuguese winemakers saying they could go out of business, and objections from the French and Bulgarian wine industries. Plenty of highly controversial publicity but interestingly no facts! The BBC is supposed to be an independent body reporting the facts, but over the last few years they seem to have lost the plot – why were they not analysing what this would mean for the British or Scottish public in reality, rather than just showing interviews with foreign winemakers who also clearly don’t understand the issue?
Scotland wants to bring in a minimum price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol. A “unit” is defined as 10ml or pure alcohol. So a standard bottle of wine at 13% abv breaks down something like this:
750ml wine at 13% abv contains 9.75 units of alcohol so would have to cost a minimum of £4.88 per bottle. Please note at this price £2.71 of this is pure tax! (71 pence VAT plus £2 excise duty).
At 11% abv (as many mass produced inferior wines are) the minimum price would be £4.13.
Is that really so Draconian? Would there be a flood of Scottish people flocking to England doing “booze runs”? Not with the price of diesel where it is! (virtually all tax again!).
Having winemakers claim they would be driven out of business by this is ludicrous. Yet the Portuguese authorities in particular are threatening a trade war against Scotch whisky if this goes ahead! If I was a Scotsman I’d stop drinking Portuguese plonk (any decent quality wine would be unaffected at 50p a unit) and move back to Scotch!
The minimum pricing strategy has been designed to target problem drinks like super strength lagers, own label spirits and cheap strong ciders (which get an excise duty break over other drinks!). These are the classic drinks of alcoholics who want to get hold of the strongest alcoholic drinks for the least money. And these are the drinks that cause severe medical problems as they are generally produced on an industrial scale from chemicals rather than distilled from fruit or grain. And the people drinking them are generally the ones causing the nuisance and anti social behaviour issues.
In a study carried out in British supermarkets (as opposed to only Scottish), out of nearly 1000 booze prices only 3 would have even been affected by the introduction of minimum pricing! It is simply a load of publicity with nothing solid behind it. Alcohol in real terms has never been cheaper despite massive tax increases in recent years, and this minimum pricing policy isn’t likely to affect the every day products we buy.
For the average sensible person drinking in moderation this isn’t likely to make any difference whatsoever to their spending. What it would do though is push up the price of problem drinks, ease the burden on the NHS and cut down on anti social behaviour and late night disorder.
But will it happen? I doubt it, but I’m sure we’ll hear plenty more about it in the next few months. It may just be a ploy to get all the Scottish alcoholics to vote against Scottish independence!