Reducing harm caused by alcohol


AFS calls for 65p minimum unit price for alcohol

As we approach the third anniversary of the landmark alcohol prevention policy, Scottish charity Alcohol Focus Scotland are calling on the next Scottish Government to prioritise reviewing and raising the minimum price for alcohol to optimise its benefits.

The evaluation evidence so far has shown positive indications that MUP appears to be having the intended effect, with a reduction in consumption since the introduction of the policy. Alongside this there have been encouraging decreases in hospital admissions from alcohol-related liver conditions. In addition, a reduction of 10% in alcohol related deaths in 2019 may provide an early sign that the policy is saving lives. 

Despite these encouraging changes, it’s widely recognised that the effect of the current 50p minimum price has been significantly eroded by inflation since the policy was approved by the Scottish Parliament in 2012. Based on the retail price index a minimum unit price of 50 pence in 2012 is equivalent to 61p in 2021. 

The Scottish government had committed to reviewing the price after two years but this was delayed due to the pandemic. 

However, Alcohol Focus Scotland say any review should go beyond offsetting the effects of inflation and also seek to increase the benefits of the policy. They point to the fact that the original modelling by Sheffield University on which the MUP was based indicated that a higher price would save significantly more lives and prevent more hospital admissions. The 2016 Sheffield study suggested a minimum price of 60p would deliver double the reduction in deaths and hospital admissions compared to a 50p MUP, and that 70p would deliver three times the effect.

Even at 70p the effect on the on-trade was considered to be limited. In 2019 Public Health Scotland found the average price per unit in pubs and restaurants was £1.96.  

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said, “Minimum unit pricing is working; it has reduced alcohol consumption and there are early signs it is preventing illness and saving lives. But the policy has the potential to deliver even greater benefits. Now is the time to increase the minimum price to not only account for inflation since the Parliament approved MUP nine years ago, but also set it at a level that will save more lives and prevent a new generation from developing a problematic relationship with alcohol. We need the next Scottish Government to increase the minimum unit price to at least 65p per unit and to future-proof its positive effects by ensure that the price is increased in line with inflation.”


30 April 2021