Last month new research credited the Scottish Government’s policy of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) of alcohol with a drop in health harms, including a 13 per cent reduction in alcohol-related deaths.

Since its introduction in 2018, the findings suggests as many as 156 deaths, and over 400 hospital admissions, may have been prevented each year.

It is also significant that the policy is having an effect in Scotland’s most deprived areas, supporting on-going work to help reduce health inequalities across Scotland.

While the policy was not universally popular when first introduced and, indeed, its implementation was delayed for five years by the Scotch Whisky Association trying to have it ruled unlawful in the courts, it is achieving exactly what it was designed to achieve – saving lives.

It is also a policy the UK Government were critical of and had their Internal Market Bill, which they pushed through last year, existed at the time there is a good chance they would have tried to use it to block the legislation.

As I pointed out in Parliament when I raised the issue, the devolved governments have brought in some very innovative policies, including the carrier bag charge in Wales and the smoking ban in Scotland, which others have since followed.

These policies illustrate the strength of devolution, yet its very fabric is now under threat from the internal market legislation.

With different demographics and challenges, the devolved governments must be able to act to address their own problem areas, particularly in relation to public health, even if it means policy divergence with the rest of the UK.

This is why the SNP have been seeking reform or devolution of drugs legislation, to allow Scotland to follow other countries, such as Portugal, which have successfully cut drug deaths by taking a ‘public health’ approach to drug addiction.

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Locally, I was delighted to visit the ‘Men Only Time’ (MOT) support group at Fullarton Community Hub just before the Easter holidays.

Run by Ayrshire Harbour, the group offers a space for men to share their experiences of addiction, mental health, bereavement and wider social issues, and support each other to move forward.

I’m grateful to everyone for their warm welcome and for sharing so openly the issues that brought them to the group and what being part of it has meant to them.

The benefit to those present was clear and it is great to see more men coming together in such a forum. I hope this kind of facility can be replicated across more communities.

The MOT group meets every Friday from 12.30-2.30pm and more information is available at They also run a ‘Wellbeing 4 Women’ group on a Monday 1 - 3pm and have an addiction support helpline (01292 623016) which is open weekdays 10am-5pm and weekends 10am-10pm.

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Finally, with the summer fast approaching, a word of caution for anyone needing a new passport.

The Passport Office has advised people to apply at least 10 weeks in advance of travel to ensure getting their passport in time.

Last year, there were significant delays in processing applications, due to staffing issues, and my team and I, as with all MP offices, had to assist many constituents who were due to travel but whose passports had not been issued.

Although, with persistence from my team, most were resolved in time, many cases still took several weeks and, sadly, some people were unable to travel as planned.

So, if you need a new passport for travel this summer, please be sure to apply in good time.

Dr Phillipa Whitford is the SNP MP for Central Ayrshire