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by Louise Wilson
20 September 2023
Scottish Government proposes increasing alcohol minimum unit price to 65p

Scottish Government proposes increasing alcohol minimum unit price to 65p

The minimum unit price for alcohol could be increased by 15p under new proposals put out by the Scottish Government.

It would mean alcohol must be sold at a minimum price of 65p per unit.

Ministers have opened a consultation on the subject ahead of new regulations being brought forward, as the legislation setting the current unit price of 50p comes to end in April.

Alcohol minister Elena Whitham said the recent rise in alcohol-related deaths proved more needed to be done to tackle Scotland’s problem with alcohol.

She said: “We believe the proposals set out in this consultation strike a reasonable balance between public health benefits and any effects on the alcoholic drinks market and subsequent impact on consumers, but we want to hear from all sides and urge everyone to take the time to respond.”

It was confirmed last month that 1,276 people died due to alcohol misuse in 2022, the highest number since 2008.

A report published in June concluded MUP had contributed to a reduction in deaths and hospitalisations, but the UK Statistics Authority intervened to criticise the press release put out with that report for not referencing the uncertainty in the statistical evidence.

The Scottish Conservatives have recently been critical of the Scottish Government’s support for this policy, with health spokesperson Sandesh Gulhane saying "the jury is still out on its effectiveness". 

On today's news, Gulhane said: "The launching of a second consultation shows even SNP ministers have concerns over any significant changes to their flagship minimum unit pricing policy.

"Increasing it to 65p per unit would only hit responsible drinkers during a cost-of-living crisis.

"Alcohol deaths are at their highest level since 2008 on the SNP’s watch and it is clear their blanket approach to tackling this crisis is simply not working, or supporting those who most need help with alcohol addiction."

Alcohol businesses have expressed concerns about the impact of the policy in sales, particularly following the UK Government’s move to introduce new, higher duties in high-strength booze.

But other parties continue to back it. Lib Dem communities spokesperson Willie Rennie said: “If MUP doesn’t move with inflation then the ambition of the policy is eroded… We need to take steps to stop alcohol wrecking lives and communities.”

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