Cost of cheap alcohol to rise by 30% as MSPs vote on minimum pricing

The price per unit of alcohol is set to rise to 65p, up from 50p.

The minimum price at which alcohol can be sold in Scotland is set to rise by 30% as MSPs are to cast their votes.

The proposals would see the price per unit will increase from 50p to 65p.

Scotland was the first country in the world to set a minimum price at which drink can be sold when the policy was introduced in May 2018.

A sunset clause on the legislation means the current regulations would expire at the end of April this year.

If MSPs vote through the price increase, it will take effect on September 30, 2024.

Shona Robison said minimum unit pricing has saved hundreds of lives.Getty Images

Deputy first minister Shona Robison announced the change as she warned health harms caused by alcohol are still a “significant issue in Scotland”.

“Research commended by internationally-renowned public health experts estimated that our world-leading Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) policy has saved hundreds of lives, likely averted hundreds of alcohol-attributable hospital admissions and contributed to reducing health inequalities,” she said.

While deaths from alcohol have increased, with 1,276 alcohol-specific deaths in 2022, Robison insisted more people would have died if the policy had not been in place.

Minimum pricing has made ‘real difference’

Doctors’ leaders and health campaigners welcomed the proposed rise in MUP, with Dr Iain Kennedy of the British Medical Association Scotland saying the policy has already made a “real difference”.

Dr Kennedy, a member of the BMA Scotland consultant committee, added that while the decision to increase it is “the right one”, the Government “must focus on delivering a package of supportive measures to ensure we are not simply relying on minimum unit pricing to reduce the harm caused by problem alcohol use in Scotland, as crucial as this policy is”.

He added: “The current, and hopefully continued, success of minimum unit pricing should be a rallying call to go further and save more lives.”

Dr Sorcha Hume, Cancer Research UK’s public affairs manager for Scotland, said the increase could help reduce cancer deaths.

She said: “Alcohol is a known cause of cancer and the more someone drinks the greater their risk of cancer, so reducing alcohol consumed will reduce the risk of cancer.

“Not only will raising the minimum unit price of alcohol help to reduce the number of lives lost to cancer each year, but it will also reduce pressure on the NHS as well as help tackle health inequalities experienced by people in Scotland.”

However Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, said the rise is “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.

“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.”

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