Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Minimum unit pricing - one year on

1st May 2019 marks the first anniversary of the implementation of minimum unit pricing of alcohol in Scotland. Scotland was the first country in the world to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol (MUP), following a ten year campaign.

The minimum unit price was set at 50 pence per unit, meaning that since 1st May 2018 no alcohol can be sold in Scotland below this price. This is a licence condition for all shops, pubs, restaurants and clubs which sell alcohol. In practice on-sales prices in bars, restaurants and clubs have largely been unaffected as most prices were already well above 50 pence per unit. The impact on prices has almost exclusively been in the off-trade where, prior to MUP, nearly half of alcohol sold (47%) was sold below 50p per unit. High strength, low-cost products such as strong ciders and lagers and cheap spirits have been particularly affected as some retailed for as little as 18p per unit before MUP.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said, “Before minimum unit pricing was introduced you could drink more than your weekly units for less than the price of a cup of coffee. Now that’s not the case which can only be a good thing.

“It’s no secret that Scotland has an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. In 2017, 1,200 Scots lost their lives, while more than 35,000 people were admitted to hospital as a result of drink. This shocking impact on our health is accompanied by other social harms such as violent crime. Something needed to change, and while everyone accepts that minimum unit pricing on its own will not solve our alcohol problem, it’s a good start.

“Everyone is keen to know what the impact of the policy has been and we’re just a few weeks away from seeing the next NHS Health Scotland Monitoring Report, which will be the first to include data on the amount of pure alcohol sold per adult in Scotland since the introduction of the policy, compared with the rest of the UK. However, it is important to remember that that while we hope to see positive indicators in the first year, the effects are expected to build over time.  An independent evaluation, led by NHS Health Scotland, will assess the impact of the policy on health, crime and the industry over the next five years, making MUP one of the most thoroughly evaluated polices ever implemented in Scotland.

“AFS remains confident that minimum unit price will save the lives of hundreds of Scots and improve the wellbeing of thousands more.”

The implementation of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) for alcohol on May 1 2018 was the culmination of a decade’s worth of policy and communications work by AFS and others. Find out more.

Minimum pricing