Scottish government has launched a consultation on the future of the public health policy, including a proposal to increase the minimum unit price (MUP) of alcohol by 15p per unit to 65p.
Views are being sought on whether to continue the MUP legislation beyond the current term which ends next April, and the level at which it should be set.
A Scottish government report on the operation and effect of MUP in its first five years, an interim business and regulatory impact assessment and a report on public attitudes to the policy have also been published.
“The recent rise in alcohol-specific deaths highlights the need for more to be done to tackle alcohol-related harm,” Elena Whitham, drugs and alcohol policy minister, commented.
“Our world-leading minimum unit pricing policy is one of the measures we know can make a difference. Recent research estimated it has saved hundreds of lives, likely averted hundreds of alcohol-attributable hospital admissions each year – and also contributed to reducing health inequalities. It is one of a range of measures we have in place across prevention and treatment services to reduce alcohol harm.
“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.”
The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 contains a ‘sunset clause’ which sets out that the minimum pricing provisions expire at the end of the six year period (which ends on 30 April 2024) unless Scottish ministers make provision to continue the legislation by laying an Order in the parliament.
Last month, the Scottish government has invited criticism after retrospectively altering a press release to remove claims that minimum alcohol pricing has directly saved lives.
Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the free market think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs, noted that only one of the 40 studies on MUP suggested that the policy has reduced alcohol-related deaths, with all other studies indicating that the policy has “either achieved nothing or has been counterproductive”.
“The Scottish government cherry-picked the one study that supported their policy and sent out a press release insisting that minimum pricing had worked,” Snowdon has said.
“The public has been given the false impression that minimum pricing has been a success. With alcohol-related deaths at a 14 year high in Scotland, that is contestable, to say the least.”
The minimum price of 50p per unit was introduced in Scotland in May 2018, becoming one of the first countries in the world to introduce minimum alcohol pricing.