Minimum pricing for alcohol to continue – and increase to 65p per unit

SCOTLAND’S policy of enforcing a minimum price per unit of alcohol is to be continued and strengthened, it was announced today, with that minimum price rising from 50p to 65p per unit.

Speaking to the Scottish Parliament, deputy first minister Shona Robison confirmed that Minimum Unit Pricing would continue beyond April 30, and that the increased rate would come into play from September 30, to businesses time to prepare.

Robison said: “On balancing the views received, and the evidence collated to date, it is this Government’s intention that MUP should continue as a policy and at a price of 65p per unit. I believe this will contribute to reducing the health harms caused by alcohol in Scotland.

“MUP is a part of the Scottish Government’s approach to preventing ill health caused by non-communicable diseases – conditions caused by factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and diet. I recognise the significant role that alcohol-related harm plays across the population including, amongst other factors, in causing ill health.”

The Scottish Beer & Pub Association was quick off the mark after Robison’s announcement, issuing a statement describing her decision as ‘disappointing’.

SBPA CEO Emma McClarkin said: “The decision to press ahead with a significant increase to MUP is disappointing, especially during a cost-of-living crisis. The vast majority of people consume alcohol responsibly and this increase will put further pressure on strained household budgets.

“The evaluation also showed no substantial evidence of the policy working,” said McClarkin. “The future introduction of a DRS will also interact with MUP, particularly lower strength products such as beer and likely distort consumer behaviour, which has not been considered.

“We strongly advise the Scottish Government to reconsider the increase at this time and instead look towards targeted interventions which have a proven record in tackling alcohol misuse.”

However, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association welcomed the announcement, and noted that it has fully supported the principle of a minimum unit price for alcohol, and the Scottish Government’s efforts to tackle the problem of ‘cheap booze’ and irresponsible promotions.

headshot of colin wilkinson wearing a suit and tie
Colin Wilkinson of SLTA

SLTA managing director, Colin Wilkinson, commented: “Scotland has long had a challenging relationship with alcohol and the link between low prices and increased consumption is clear. The sale of cheap alcohol has been a major factor in many people developing alcohol-related problems so a proportionate increase in MUP make absolute sense.

“Pubs and bars provide a controlled and safe environment for people drinking alcohol whereas people drinking at home are not necessarily aware of how much they are drinking,” said Wilkinson. “The retention of and the proposed increase in the level of MUP will help avoid a return to the days of deep discounting and irresponsible promotions which were particularly seen in supermarkets where alcohol, on some occasions, was being sold cheaper than bottled water and below cost as a loss-leader.

“The 50p level was approved in the Scottish Parliament nearly 12 years ago so we believe that with rises in inflation since then, it was time to increase MUP from September 30.”

Mr Wilkinson added that the introduction of MUP in May 2018 had helped bring price stability to the market, and said: “Minimum unit pricing is one policy where we wholeheartedly support the Scottish Government for its robust action.”