It has been five years since the minimum pricing of alcohol was introduced in Scotland.

It meant a big jump in the price of products like cheap, high-strength white ciders and high-alcohol volume lagers.

The aim behind the policy was clear.

The Scottish Government’s own words at the time, stated “The greatest health benefits are estimated to be seen amongst hazardous and harmful drinkers as they disproportionately consume the alcohol most affected and experience most harm.

“Minimum pricing, therefore, effectively targets those individuals whose drinking puts them most at risk of harm.”

READ NEXT:Has minimum pricing helped those most at risk from drinking?

Five years later and it is being evaluated before the Scottish Parliament has to decide whether to keep the policy as there was a ‘sunset clause’ in the original legislation.

The final report by Public Health Scotland follows previous studies to see if the policy has had any impact.

It concluded minimum pricing has not led to any significant reduction in alcohol consumption among those considered to be the most problematic drinkers, those whose drinking is seriously harming their health, and people who are alcohol addicted.

That will not come as a surprise to anyone who has any knowledge of the subject and in Scotland that is not an insignificant number of people.

The financial cost is not something that is a determining factor in whether someone with an addiction takes the substance to which they are addicted, or not.

Increasing the price of a unit of alcohol to a minimum of 50p, putting a few pounds more on to a particular product will not lead to someone with an addiction deciding not to drink alcohol to the same level as when it was cheaper.

Not long after the policy was introduced, retailers said that regular customers simply switched to another product that gave them the maximum effect for what they had to spend.

In 2018 the Glasgow Times spoke to retailers in the city as some products were to triple in price.

One said: “I won’t sell the strong ciders anymore. At more than £11 no-one will buy it. They will buy something else.”

You cannot price out addiction.

READ NEXT:Protest against Orange Order march past catholic church

The reports have recognised this and highlighted the detrimental impact this has had on people’s lives.

It is often termed an unintended consequence, but it is a consequence that should have been foreseen and again there would have been no shortage of people able and willing to point this out.

If someone has £100 a week to spend on bills, food and drink and they spend £40 of it on strong drink and £20 on food and £40 on bills, and then the price of alcohol goes up they will spend less on other essentials to maintain the alcohol habit.

It has also been pointed out that the policy does nothing to help people.

Around the same time as the policy was being introduced the budget for alcohol and drug partnerships was being cut.

The law was finally passed in 2018.

The year before, local services were grappling with a big cut in funding for addiction.

Alcohol and Drug Partnerships were told in 2016 their budget for the following year would fall from £69.2m to £53.8m.

The success claims made in the evaluation are also worth closer scrutiny.

The evaluation of the report found that minimum pricing led to 13.4% fewer deaths “directly caused by alcohol consumption” and 4% fewer hospital admissions than if the policy was not introduced.

Statistics are a flexible instrument however, as deaths have actually increased according to official government figures.

Data from the Office of National Statistics show “alcohol specific deaths” in Scotland increased from 20.8 per 100,000 in 2018 to 22.4 per 100,000 in 2021.

It has been pointed out the initial policy didn’t seem to pay enough attention to the underlying causes of excessive drinking and alcohol addiction.

Rather than trying to understand what is leading people to become addicted to alcohol, it was decided to try and price people out of drinking.

It was also stated that increasing the price has an adverse effect on people on lower incomes and those with a higher income can simply absorb the cost and continue their drinking without noticing much of a difference.

It seems likely that when it is up for renewal MSPs will extend minimum pricing.

If they listen to those who have direct experience of addiction, they will likely be told to consider some changes.

The main change being that unless people are given the support they need and the treatment that can be and has proven to be effective, minimum pricing will not lead to any meaningful difference to the lives of those most affected by alcohol.