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by Andrew Learmonth
12 October 2021
Minimum Unit Pricing had 'minimal impact on levels of alcohol-related crime'

Minimum Unit Pricing had 'minimal impact on levels of alcohol-related crime'

Scotland’s Minimum Unit Pricing laws had “minimal impact on alcohol-related crime” according to a new report from Public Health Scotland.

Researchers found that alcohol-related crime, disorder and public nuisance in Scotland were found to be going down before the introduction of MUP in 2018, and that there was “no statistically significant change after its introduction”. 

This was also true of non-alcohol-related crimes such as drug-related crime.  

Alcohol Focus Scotland said they were "disappointed" by the report and called on the Scottish Government should to increase the minimum price to at least 65p per unit. 

Researchers from the Manchester Metropolitan University Crime and Well-Being Big Data Centre compared alcohol-related crime and disorder in Scotland and Greater Manchester to see what difference MUP made. 

The data analysed covered the period from January 2015 to January 2020, including the 21 months after May 2018 when Scotland became the first country in the world to bring in minimum unit pricing for alcohol at 50p.

Jon Bannister, Professor of Criminology at Manchester Metropolitan University, said:  “Whilst off-trade alcohol sales in Scotland fell following the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing, this study finds that reduction in sales had minimal impact on the levels of alcohol-related crime, disorder and public nuisance reported in Scotland.  

“Drug-related crime appears to have been similarly unaffected, with no increase seen around the introduction of MUP.  

“On the whole, the limited discernible impact of MUP on alcohol-related crime, disorder and public nuisance suggests that the reduction in off-trade alcohol sales that followed implementation is below that required to deliver a reduction in crime. Or, if crime did reduce, it has done so at a scale that the evaluation could not identify”.  

Dr Karl Ferguson, Public Health Intelligence Adviser at Public Health Scotland, said:
“Understanding the impact of MUP on social harms including crime and public safety is an important aspect of the overall evaluation.

“The findings of this research are in line with previous Public Health Scotland studies which reported limited evidence of increased theft or illicit substance use as a result of MUP. These studies included research into how MUP affected small retailers, people drinking at harmful levels, and children and young people”. 

In response to the report, Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said it was time for a rise in the per unit price.

She said: “It is disappointing that the study found limited impact on alcohol-related crimes as a result of minimum unit pricing, especially given that MUP has been found to have reduced off-sales consumption in Scotland and early indications suggest it has also saved lives. 

“However, it is well recognised that the effects of a 50p per unit minimum price will have been eroded by inflation since the policy was first approved by the Scottish Parliament in 2012. In order to ensure we get the most out of minimum unit pricing, Alcohol Focus Scotland believes the Scottish Government should increase the minimum price to at least 65p per unit. 

“Setting it at this level will make good the effects of inflation and, more importantly it will increase the positive benefits of the policy by reducing consumption, saving and improving more lives and preventing a new generation from developing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.”

A Scottish government spokeswoman said:"We will consider all relevant emerging evidence, including the impact of the pandemic on the economy, people's incomes and alcohol affordability.

"We are committed to ensuring we have an effective level of minimum unit price in place so we can reduce alcohol-related harms."

Read the most recent article written by Andrew Learmonth - Time is right to reform Scotland's exams, says education minister

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