Reducing harm caused by alcohol


More about sales data

Six months ago alcohol sales date from Nielsen hit the press, with the damning headlines that MUP wasn’t working. As we near the one year anniversary it’s no surprise we are seeing similar claims reported off the back of further figures from Nielsen’s Homescan Consumer Panel. Are these figures really showing that Scots are drinking more and is MUP a failure? The simple answer is no; but nor can we yet demonstrate it is a success.  We simply don’t have sufficient information to assess the impact of MUP yet. The figures from Nielsen and others do suggest consumer behaviour is changing and people are swapping drinks.  This is entirely to be expected as the intention of the policy is to nudge people away from high-strength low-cost drinks. Shopkeepers talk about ‘de-listing’ strong ciders which used to retail for as little as 18 pence per unit, which can’t be a bad thing. What we don’t yet know is whether the amount of pure alcohol sold in Scotland since MUP is going up or down as the Nielsen data only counts ‘natural volumes’, so a litre of 3.8% beer counts the same as a litre of 40% whisky.

It is also worth mentioning that we haven’t seen any comparison with the rest of the UK at this point. At the six month mark, an increase in volume with purchases up by 7% in England and Wales was reported, while in Scotland volume sales increased by 4%. This could be an indicatation that MUP is having some effect by slowing the growth of sales. The full evaluation will compare sales in Scotland with sales in England where MUP doesn’t yet apply. This will allow the evaluators to better understand the of MUP.

However, until we start to see data coming through from the thorough, independent evaluation of MUP by NHS Health Scotland we won’t get a full picture of the impact on alcohol consumption and – more importantly – on deaths, hospitalisations and crime.  We remain confident that the evaluation will show that MUP delivers clear benefits.

Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland