Scotland introduces minimum unit pricing on alcohol, will England be next?

By Fred A'Court

- Last updated on GMT

Industry warning: minimum unit pricing should be carefully evaluated
Industry warning: minimum unit pricing should be carefully evaluated
Minimum unit pricing (MUP) pricing comes into force today (1 May) in Scotland after a long-running legal battle over its introduction stretching back to 2012.

The news has been welcomed by the health education charity The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), which said that more than 1,000 lives could be saved and 74,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions prevented in the first few years if England follows Scotland in introducing (MUP).

The RSPH, other health groups and campaign organisations have used the introduction of the new law to urge England to follow Scotland’s lead.

It says MUP is one of the most effective policy measures available to reduce alcohol-related health harm, which costs the NHS around £3.5bn every year.

Chief executive Shirley Cramer said numerous studies and international evidence suggest MUP can significantly reduce deaths and other health harms.

“We hope that the Westminster Government will now look to the success of such policies and not leave people in England at a greater risk of harm from irresponsibly cheap, super-strength alcohol.”

Calls for 'careful' evaluation

But the chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) Brigid Simmonds warned that minimum pricing in England should be carefully evaluated.

“The introduction of MUP represents a major change to alcohol policy in Scotland. We believe that the impact of MUP should be carefully evaluated before a proposal is considered in England.

“The BBPA strongly supports policies and initiatives targeted at the minority of those who misuse alcohol and view this as the best way to reduce alcohol harm. We have been very active in our support of the Responsibility Deal with the removal of 1bn units of alcohol from the market as well as raising unit awareness and promoting lower-strength products."

No more cheap whisky or vodka

The new Scottish law hikes the price of cheap whisky and vodka by £3 a bottle, and high-strength white cider by £5. It targets problem drinkers who get cheap alcohol from supermarkets and some off-trade outlets. 

Supermarket beer is almost 188% more affordable now than 30 years ago according to figures published in February by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS). Affordability has risen by 22% since 2012, it said.

Speaking when the figures were published, IAS chief executive Katherine Brown, said: “Evidence shows that as alcohol becomes more affordable, communities experience greater levels of harm.

"In England, cheap alcohol is creating a huge burden on our NHS, police and public services with more than 1.2m hospital admissions and 1m crimes related to alcohol each year. These findings strengthen the case for minimum unit pricing, which would target the cheapest alcohol drunk by those causing damage to themselves and others without affecting the cost of a pint down the pub.”

Wales and Northern Ireland are also considering the introduction of minimum pricing.

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