Plans to increase the minimum price per unit of alcohol are being put forward to the Scottish Parliament, the government confirmed in a statement today (8 February).
The proposal involves increasing minimum unit pricing (MUP) by 15p ($0.19) to 65p.
Scotland first introduced the MUP regulation in 2018. As part of a ‘sunset clause’, the rule is supposed to become ineffective at the end of April, unless Parliament votes to retain it.
The government will present the proposal to Parliament on 19 February. If approved, it will come into play on 30 September, 2024.
Scottish ministers started consultations around updating the MUP figure last April.
Commenting on the news, deputy first minister Shona Robinson said research shows the MUP legislation “has saved hundreds of lives, likely averted hundreds of alcohol-attributable hospital admissions and contributed to reducing health inequalities”.
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She added: “We believe the proposals, which are supported by Scotland’s chief medical officer, strike a reasonable balance between public health benefits and any effects on the alcoholic-drinks market and impact on consumers.
“Evidence suggests there has not been a significant impact on business and industry as a whole.”
Brewing industry representative the Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBBPA) however has raised concerns regarding the news.
In a statement, SBBPA CEO Emma McClarkin described the decision as “disappointing, especially during a cost-of-living crisis”.
She added: “The vast majority of people consume alcohol responsibly and this increase will put further pressure on strained household budgets.
“The evaluation also showed no substantial evidence of the policy working. The future introduction of a DRS will also interact with MUP, particularly lower strength products such as beer, and likely distort consumer behaviour, which has not been considered.
“We strongly advise the Scottish Government to reconsider the increase at this time and instead look towards targeted interventions which have a proven record in tackling alcohol misuse.”
The Scottish Whisky Association also voiced its concerns. In a statement, a spokesperson for the trade group said: “The efficacy of MUP as a policy to reduce harmful drinking has yet to be established.”
It added the new MUP policy would “push up the minimum price of Scotch Whisky from £14 to £18.20”, a hike that “will impact consumers across Scotland, the vast majority of whom drink responsibly, at a time when they are already grappling with rising costs”.