Reducing harm caused by alcohol

Minimum pricing

Minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol was implemented on 1 May 2018. 



What is minimum pricing?

A minimum price for alcohol sets the lowest price an alcoholic drink can be sold for. In Scotland, the minimum price per unit of alcohol was set at 50p.

Which drinks have been affected?

Stronger drinks that contain more units of alcohol have a higher minimum price than drinks that contain less alcohol. Drinks that have been most affected include strong white cider, own brand vodka and gin, and super strength lager.

A bottle of wine containing 10 units of alcohol has to be sold for at least £5, and a can of lager containing 2 units of alcohol has to cost at least £1.

Unlike supermarkets and off-licences, most drinks sold in pubs, clubs and restaurants already cost more than 50p per unit so there is no real difference under minimum pricing.

Minimum pricing is an effective policy because it targets the drinkers causing the most harm to themselves and society, whilst having almost no effect on moderate drinkers.

Why is minimum pricing needed?

Alcohol was much more affordable to buy now than itused to be. In fact, it was 64% more affordable in 2017 tha it was in 1980 - particularly in supermarkets and other off-sales where we now buy most of our alcohol. This increased affordability led to higher consumption and higher levels of alcohol-related health and social problems - find out more

What are the benefits of minimum pricing?

Getting rid of the cheapest, strongest alcohol will mean improved health, safer communities and lives saved.

Modelling by the University of Sheffield estimated that in the first year alone, introducing a 50p minimum unit price in Scotland would mean around:

  • 60 fewer deaths
  • 1,300 fewer hospital admissions
  • 3,500 fewer crimes

In Canada,  minimum pricing has resulted in a reduction in the amount people drink, with fewer alcohol-related hospital admissions and fewer deaths.

Are there are plans to increase the price?

At the moment there are no plans to increase the minimum unit price.

consultation was held in January 2018 to gather views from people, businesses, public bodies and interested parties about the Scottish Government’s preferred price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol.

The Scottish Government have committed to reviewing the price after the second anniversary to ensure the benefits are fully realised.

Alcohol Focus Scotland's response to the Scottish Government consultation on the preferred price

Minimum pricing timeline

The Alcohol Minimum Pricing (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 24 May 2012 but was delayed by the legal challenge led by the Scotch Whisky Association.

The Court of Session refused the Scotch Whisky Association petition for judicial review in May 2013 and the matter was referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

In December 2015, the ECJ issued their judgement that the Scottish Government can use minimum pricing to reduce harm, as long as it can show that minimum pricing is more effective than taxation. 

The case continued at the Court of Session in Edinburgh during June and July 2016 and on 21 October 2016, the court ruled that minimum pricing is legal and can be implemented in Scotland. The Scotch Whisky Association announced their intention to appeal to the UK Supreme Court, further delaying the implementation of minimum pricing. This appeal was heard in July 2017, with the judgment issued on 15 November 2017.

The UK Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the appeal, ruling that the Scottish minimum pricing legislation does not breach EU law, and that minimum pricing is appropriately targeted, lawful and proportionate.

The Scottish Government consulted on their preferred price of 50 pence per unit in December 2017 and January 2018.  After hearing evidence from the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport on 17 April 2018, the Health and Sport Committee recommended to the Scottish Parliament that the price-setting order (secondary legislation) be approved.  The order was unanimously approved by the Scottish Parliament on 25 April 2018.  

A minimum price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol was implemented in Scotland on 1 May 2018.