Four years on from the landmark Supreme Court ruling that allowed the introduction of minimum unit pricing of alcohol in Scotland, Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) and Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) have called for an increase in MUP.
In a letter to Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Health, Humza Yousaf MSP, and Public Health Minister, Maree Todd MSP, the campaigners recommend the Scottish Government increases the current price of 50p per unit to 65p.
Signed by leading health and children’s charities and Royal Colleges, the letter highlights that while the initial findings from the Public Health Scotland evaluation have been positive, the impact of a 50p MUP is likely to have been significantly eroded by inflation.
MUP came into force in 2018. In the two years following, there was a reduction in alcohol consumption and decreases in hospital admissions from alcohol-related liver conditions. Scotland also saw a 10 per cent decrease in the number of alcohol-specific deaths in 2019. Unfortunately, probably due to changing drinking patterns during the pandemic, deaths rose by a devastating 17 per cent in 2020.
Blantyre retailer and national deputy vice president of the NFRN, Shahid Razzaq, said: “These figures are quite shocking. While MUP proved to be very successful initially, it is clear that it needs to be reviewed and acted on by government to address this worrying trend and we fully support the proposed increase.”
The campaigners emphasise that Scottish Government could save and improve more lives by increasing the minimum price. The original modelling of MUP calculated that setting a higher price will deliver greater benefits – a price of 60p per unit was predicted to save twice as many lives and hospital admissions as 50p per unit, while 70p was expected to deliver three times the effect.
Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “We’ve seen that minimum unit pricing can have a positive effect. Unfortunately, inflation means we’re not seeing the full benefits of this life-saving policy.
“We need to off-set both the effects of inflation and the Covid pandemic and adjust the minimum unit price to a level that will save more lives and prevent a new generation from developing an unhealthy relationship with alcohol. We urge the Scottish Government to take action now and raise the minimum unit price to at least 65p.”
Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, chair of SHAAP, added: “The Scottish Government committed to review the price two years after the introduction of the policy. While this has understandably been delayed due to the pandemic, we cannot afford to wait any longer.
“Experts in public health and beyond believe increasing the minimum unit price is the right thing to do. By taking action, the Scottish Government can reduce the harm and pain caused by alcohol problems across Scotland, as well as save many more lives.”