Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Stand Firm and Save Lives

Over 80 organisations come together in unprecedented move in support of raising the minimum unit price for alcohol to 65p

More than 80 organisations from across Scotland and beyond have come together to call on MSPs to increase the minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol to 65p. The move comes ahead of a crucial Holyrood vote. 

The letter - which brings together dozens of medical, faith organisations and charities – sent to the Scottish Parliament’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, calls for cross-party support for the renewal of MUP and to uprate the price to 65p per unit.

Co-ordinated by Alcohol Focus Scotland and SHAAP (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems), the joint letter has been sent to the Health Committee as they prepare to report to the Parliament on draft regulations to renew the policy and to uprate the minimum price to 65p, by Easter. The Parliament as a whole must vote by the end of April to pass the regulations, otherwise the policy will end. 

The joint letter states that minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol has saved and improved hundreds of lives in Scotland since it was introduced in 2018, citing extensive and robust evaluation by Public Health Scotland. The evaluation estimates that MUP had reduced deaths caused solely by alcohol by 13.4%, driven by significant improvements in chronic outcomes, particularly alcoholic liver disease. This translates to 156 families each year who have been spared the loss of a loved one. 

In addition, hospital admissions are down by an estimated 4.1%, reducing pressure on the NHS. 

The benefits of the policy have been seen most in more deprived communities, indicating that it has helped to reduce health inequalities. 

The signatories highlight that failure to raise MUP to 65p per unit will result in an estimated 800 more deaths, and almost 10,000 additional hospital admissions at an estimated cost of £11 million to our hospitals, over the next five years. 

Speaking on publication of the letter, Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus said:

“We have been delighted to see support for our joint letter on increasing MUP coming from such a diverse range of organisations across the whole of Scotland and beyond. This clearly demonstrates that increasing MUP is not simply a concern to those working in public health but stretches right across Scottish society – very much reflecting the nature and extent of alcohol related harm.

“Most of us know someone, or perhaps several people, whose lives have been blighted by their own drinking or by that of a loved one.

“Minimum pricing has resulted in tangible benefits to Scotland’s health and wellbeing. Hundreds of lives have been saved, it has helped reduce the burden on our NHS through significantly reducing hospital admissions at a time of major strain for the health service - and has resulted in a reduction in health inequalities affecting some of our most vulnerable communities.”

“The Scottish Parliament has a great track record of cross-party action to improve public health. We hope that all parties will come together to continue with and uprate minimum unit pricing as part of a multi-faceted approach to changing Scotland’s relationship with alcohol. Failure to do so would risk a reversal in the many gains we have seen from this world leading policy.”

Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, Chair of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), and former consultant hepatologist said:

“Alcohol harm affects all aspects of Scottish life and healthcare professionals see it amongst patients every day. The amount of alcohol harm is closely linked to how affordable it is, so it is no surprise that MUP has reduced that harm.

“As expected, it has been most effective in the most deprived communities who suffer the highest number of deaths and highest number of alcohol-related hospitalisations, thus reducing health inequalities.

“I am pleased to see MUP receiving such widespread support across Scotland: this reflects the clear understanding that MUP not only needs to continue, but to set it a rate any less than 65p would result in lives concentrated in our poorest communities being unnecessarily lost.”

One in six children in Scotland are estimated to be living with a parent with an alcohol problem. Previous research by Alcohol Focus Scotland has highlighted the damaging impact on children, including on emotional wellbeing, risk of physical harm and influencing future drinking patterns. Martin Crewe, Chief Executive of Barnardo’s Scotland said:

“Barnardo’s Scotland has several services which are dedicated to supporting children, young people and families who are affected by alcohol and drugs use. 

“We know from our work with families that alcohol harm can have a lifelong impact, and that’s why Barnardo’s has long-supported efforts to tackle the price of alcohol and therefore consumption. 

“Barnardo’s is also clear that we must go beyond the focus on price alone, and that more action must be taken to ensure families have appropriate community-based support.

“We have engaged with the children and young people we support to gather their views on actions such as restriction of alcohol marketing towards children, and we look forward to hearing a further update from the Scottish Government on their plans.”

Alcohol causes a wide variety of social and economic costs as well as the more often discussed health impacts, also being strongly implicated in crime, anti-social behaviour, intimate partner violence and unintentional harm and injury to name but a few.

Speaking about their support for uprating MUP, Lorraine Gillies, CEO of the Scottish Community Safety Network said:

“Our role is to help build safer communities, but we know only too well the corrosive effects that alcohol has on the lives of people across Scotland, whether that’s due to anti-social behaviour, feeling unsafe, or being a victim of domestic abuse or assault. In 2021/22, 37% of offenders were thought to have been under the influence of alcohol by victims of violent crime and 43% of the accused in homicides in Scotland in the ten years between 2010-2020 were under the influence of alcohol at the time of their offence.

“Anything that reduces harmful or hazardous drinking is likely not only to reduce health harms but also these wider social harms. That is why we support retention of minimum unit pricing of alcohol and why we are calling for it to be uprated to 65p per unit to maintain its impact.” 



Monday 18 March 2024