Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Minimum effectiveness

It was disappointing, although not entirely surprising, news that the Supreme Court has rejected the Scotch Whisky Association’s appeal against the Scottish government’s plans for minimum alcohol pricing. I’ve been over all this many times before and don’t propose to go into the detail again. But it will do little or nothing to combat alcoholism, while hitting poorer households hard in the wallet. It will encourage bootlegging and illegal distilling, with all the potential health issues that causes.

Hopefully the UK government will see sense and not extend it south of the Border. But, assuming they don’t, it will obviously lead to a huge amount of cross-border shopping, with a procession of white vans trundling north up the A74(M) from Carlisle ASDA. And, if they did, it would deal a grievous blow to farmhouse cidermakers, many of who may abandon selling commercially.

There will be some useful idiots within CAMRA who will welcome the decision as getting one over on the supermarkets, but it won’t give anyone a single extra penny to spend in pubs. Indeed, as Christopher Snowdon argues here, it could even lead to people spending less in pubs if they need to reallocate a fixed budget for spending on alcohol.

And don’t imagine that it will leave the on-trade completely unscathed. It’s not uncommon for Wetherspoon’s to price their guest ales, including those of 6% ABV and above, at £1.99 a pint. With the 50p CAMRA discount voucher, that would take them down to a mere 44p a unit!

Some will say “well, Mudgie, it’s ironic that this was one example of where the EU was protecting British consumers”. I will accept that its partial attempts to stop countries erecting barriers to trade in the name of health policy was one of the few good points about the EU, but even that has now been thrown out of the window. And we really shouldn’t need a supra-national body to protect us from ourselves – we should be free to make our own laws, however stupid they may be.

An all-round bad day for the interests of drinkers in the UK. Plus, of course, once it proves to be ineffective, there will be the inevitable pressure to ratchet the minimum price ever upwards...


  1. "– we should be free to make our own laws, however stupid they may be".

    Eh? This is why I voted Remain...

  2. Given the SNP's claim that this is beneficial to the health of the Scottish people, it's a little ironic that their running of NHS Scotland has led to it to being in a far worse state than the rest of the UK, and don't get me started on the state of the Scottish education system. Sturgeon and the SNP seem far more interested in nanny state meddling and independence than actually running their country properly.

    1. Much the same is true of the health and education systems run by the devolved Labour administration in Wales. Coincidentally, they are also looking to introduce minimum pricing, possibly as a diversion from their domestic problems.

      If (when?) it doesn't work, no doubt cross-border sales from England will be blamed.

    2. The big Morrisons at Berwick, less than two miles from the border, will no doubt be happy to soak up some of that blame!

    3. And likewise Carlisle ASDA next to Junction 44 of the M6.

  3. Don't disagree and it's likely to come to to England to avoid bootlegging. It'll do nowt for pubs but what it will achieve is a greater disconnect between working class people that appreciate value & the politicans who seem to think the only acceptable drink is a nice middle class one.

    Credit to CAMRA for not supporting it & funding Drinkers Voice. Appears the beardies are seeing sense and ignoring the middle class puritans in its ranks.

    What's next is increases in the 50p to a quid & beyond. It'll hollow out the cheaper value pubs & as pub pricing is about hospitality all the nice middle class safe space pubs will seek to hike prices to maintain a differential and keep the wrong sort out.

    Really astonishing to see industry lags cheering it on as if it will only increase margins rather than crash volume. Like all the publicans cheering their impending demise before the smoking ban.

    Look at the model of fags. The price only went one way until a small minority still at it chose to smoke nasty roll ups.

    The £10 pint in on it's way.

    1. You're not wrong, Cookie, and all the deluded individuals who imagine that pubs will be immune from this trend are in for a rude awakening. Ireland is already proposing a minimum price of €1.00/unit, which at current exchange rates isn't far off twice the Scottish level. It may not affect any Irish pubs, but it would start nibbling away at the bottom end of Spoons' and Sam's trade.

    2. Not sure about Sam's. Pint of Old Brewery Bitter 4% = 2.27 units x 50p = £1.14 but usually sells for around £1.90. Sam's Dark Mild is 2.8% = 1.59 units x 50p = 80p for a pint. Last time I had a half of Dark Mild it was 67p.

      Cookie's "£10 pint is on its way" is equally alarmist. At 50p a unit, there would have to be 20 units in a pint for it to be priced at £10. That equates to a strength of 35% abv. Some beer.

      The strongest beer I've ever had was Abbeydale Strong Ale #1 10.3% at Sheffield Beer Festival. That's 5.85 units for a pint, which at 50p per unit would be £2.93. I had a half for £2.30.

    3. No, I was referring to a minimum price of €1.00/unit, as proposed in Ireland, which at the current exchange rate is 89p. That would affect both OBB and Dark Mild in Sam's pubs, plus the numerous guest ales of 5% or more sold in Spoons for £1.99 a pint.

    4. There are 2 ways of looking at it. Either it's a one off measure or one step on a longer path.

      The latter is the most likely. The temperance movement will be emboldened by this rather than satisified and continue to demand more.

      If the logic is 50p a unit reduces harm and saves lives then 60, 70,80p etc saves more lives and reduces more harm.

      By ranking up the price gradually they divide drinkers and split between those affected and those unaffected that shrug there shoulders.

      And as with smoking the numbers of drinkers will continue to decline.

      When the drinking cohort small enough it becomes possible to hammer all drinkers with most of society shrugging their shoulders. Smoking prohibition has been a series of small gradual measures.

      I remember being at work listening to someone moan when fags hit a fiver a packet. They laughed when I said they will be a tenner a few years. Go look at the price of 20 tabs now.

    5. Oh, it's undoubtedly the first step in a process. And don't forget that minimum pricing for the on-trade - at a significantly higher level than for the off-trade - has been seriously proposed.


Comments, especially on older posts, may require prior approval by the blog owner. See here for details of my comment policy.

Please register an account to comment. To combat persistent trolling, unregistered comments are liable to be deleted unless I recognise the author. If you intend to make more than the occasional comment using an unregistered ID, you will need to tell me something about yourself.