MSPs urged to increase minimum alcohol pricing to 65p per unit

The Scottish Parliament must vote as a whole by the end of April to pass the new regulations on minimum pricing or the policy will come to an end.

Organisations call for minimum alcohol pricing to increase to 65 pence per unit STV News

Over 80 organisations across Scotland and beyond are calling upon the Scottish Government to increase the minimum pricing for alcohol ahead of a Holyrood vote.

In a letter, signed by a myriad of charities, faith-groups and medical organisations, the signatories have asked for the Scottish Government to increase the minimum unit pricing (MUP) to 65p.

The letter to MSPs was co-ordinated by Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) and the Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (Shaap), and was sent to the Scottish Government’s health committee.

It was sent as the health board prepares to report draft regulations to the new its alcohol policy.

The Scottish Parliament must vote as a whole by the end of April to pass the new regulations, otherwise the policy will come to an end.

The letter argues that MUP for alcohol has saved and improved hundreds of lives in Scotland since it was introduced in 2018, and that the total number of deaths caused by alcohol alone has reduced by 13.4% since minimum pricing began.

The signatories said this equates to around 156 families each year who have been spared the loss of a loved one due to alcohol-related health conditions, such as alcoholic liver disease.

They also say hospital admissions due to alcohol has gone down by an estimated 4.1%.

They are now pushing for the minimum pricing to rise to 65 pence, stating that there will be around 800 more deaths in the next five years if it is not implemented.

They also warned it would lead to almost 10,000 additional hospital admissions within the same time period, and in total would cost an estimated £11m.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus said: “We have been delighted to see support for our joint letter on increasing MUP coming from such a diverse range of organisations across the whole of Scotland and beyond.

“This clearly demonstrates that increasing MUP is not simply a concern to those working in public health but stretches right across Scottish society – very much reflecting the nature and extent of alcohol related harm.

“Most of us know someone, or perhaps several people, whose lives have been blighted by their own drinking or by that of a loved one.

“Minimum pricing has resulted in tangible benefits to Scotland’s health and wellbeing.”

She added: “We hope that all parties will come together to continue with and uprate minimum unit pricing as part of a multi-faceted approach to changing Scotland’s relationship with alcohol.

“Failure to do so would risk a reversal in the many gains we have seen from this world-leading policy.”

Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, a former consultant hepatologist and chairman of Shaap, says minimum pricing for alcohol has had a positive effect in Scotland, particularly in deprived areas.

He said: “I am pleased to see MUP receiving such widespread support across Scotland: this reflects the clear understanding that MUP not only needs to continue, but to set it a rate any less than 65p would result in lives concentrated in our poorest communities being unnecessarily lost.”

The letter was signed by children’s charity Barnardo’s, who have raised concerns that one in six Scottish children are living with a parent with an alcohol problem,

Martin Crewe, chief executive of Barnardo’s Scotland, said this can have a “lifelong impact” on children, and that while upping the pricing is key, more action should to taken to “ensure families have appropriate community-based support”.

He added: “We have engaged with the children and young people we support to gather their views on actions such as restriction of alcohol marketing towards children, and we look forward to hearing a further update from the Scottish Government on their plans.”

Lorraine Gillies, chief executive of the Scottish Community Safety Network, said alcohol has a “corrosive” effect on people in Scotland, stating that 37% of offenders were alleged to have been under the influence of alcohol in 2021-2022.

She said that 43% of people accused of homicides in Scotland between 2010-2020 were impaired due to the effects of alcohol.

She added: “Anything that reduces harmful or hazardous drinking is likely not only to reduce health harms but also these wider social harms.

“That is why we support retention of minimum unit pricing of alcohol and why we are calling for it to be uprated to 65p per unit to maintain its impact.”

Deputy First Minister Shona Robison said: “We believe the proposals, which are supported by Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, strike a reasonable balance between public health benefits and any effects on the alcoholic drinks market and impact on consumers.

“Alongside MUP, we will continue to invest in treatment and a wide range of other measures, including funding for Alcohol and Drug Partnerships which rose to £112m in 2023-24.”

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