The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 enabled Scottish Ministers to introduce a system of minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol. This was first implemented on 1 May 2018, with the minimum price of alcohol set at 50 pence per unit (ppu). An evaluation of the first five years of MUP, led by Public Health Scotland (PHS), was published on 27 June 2023.
The 2012 Act states that the MUP provisions will expire after being in place for six years (30 April 2024) unless the Scottish Ministers legislate to continue their effect.
The Scottish Government is considering extending minimum unit pricing for alcohol beyond its initial phase and has proposed increasing this to 65 pence per unit (ppu) beyond the initial expiration date. A public consultation was open from 20 September to 22 November 2023. The consultation contained three questions to gather views on this proposal:
Q1. Do you think Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) should continue? (Yes / No)
Q2. If MUP continues, do you agree with the proposed Minimum Unit Price of 65 pence? (Yes / No)
Q3. We invite comments on the Scottish Ministers’ proposal to continue MUP, and the proposed Minimum Unit Price of 65 pence. (Open)
In total, 545 consultation responses were received. Almost all were submitted via the online consultation platform Citizen Space. Those received in an alternative format, for example, an email or PDF document, were uploaded to the Citizen Space by the Scottish Government and were included in the analysis.
Individuals provided 432 responses to the consultation; the remaining 113 were from organisations. More information about respondents, including the types of organisations who participated, is provided in Chapter 2.
The Lines Between was commissioned to provide a robust, independent analysis of the responses to the public consultation. The primary purpose of consultation analysis is to understand the full range of views expressed, not to quantify how many people held particular views. This report provides a thematic analysis of responses based on the analysis approach outlined below.
Two closed consultation questions asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with the proposals. The first sought to identify whether respondents felt the MUP provisions should be extended beyond its initial period, and the second queried whether the minimum unit price should increase from 50p to 65ppu.
Each table in this report shows the number and percentage of responses to each question at a total sample level and is broken down by individual and organisational responses. Please note that figures in the tables may not add to 100% due to rounding.
Qualitative analysis identifies the key themes across responses to each question. The analyst team developed a draft coding framework based on a review of the consultation questions and a sample of responses. New codes were created during the full coding process if additional themes emerged.
Where appropriate, quotes from a range of participants are included to illustrate key points and provide useful examples, insights and contextual information. In some instances, these quotes are long, but they have been included to ensure the detail and complexity of the points raised are reflected accurately.
Reflecting the large number of people who took part, it is not possible to detail every response in this report; a few organisations shared lengthy submissions reflecting their specific subject matter expertise. These responses are referenced where possible. Full responses to the consultation, where permission for publication was granted, can be found on the Scottish Government’s website.
When reviewing the analysis in this report, we would ask the reader to consider:
- Public consultations invite everyone to express their views; individuals and organisations interested in the topic are more likely to respond than those without a direct or known interest. This self-selection means the views of respondents do not necessarily represent the views of the entire population.
- As there was only one open question inviting comments, respondents frequently raised many points within their answers. These points have been coded into discrete themes to allow as much detail as possible to be presented in this report. However, we acknowledge that there is an overlap between some themes.
- In many cases, respondents did not specify whether their comment was solely in relation to continuing MUP, increasing the minimum unit price, or both. Where possible, we have referred back to the results of the quantitative questions to provide more context. For example, many commented that it was unfair on moderate drinkers, but it was unclear whether they were referring to the overall approach of MUP or a price increase.
- Qualitative comments do not always align with the results of the quantitative questions. For example, respondents may have expressed support for continuing MUP in Q1, but caveated their support or suggested areas for improvement in Q3.
- Three groups of coordinated ‘campaign plus’ responses were identified. This is where responses include identical or very similarly worded sections, plus additional text personalised by the respondent. More information about these responses is provided in Chapter 2. In the analysis process, all responses in each of these groups have been treated separately and the full content of all responses has been analysed.
- While there are other instances of organisations using similar wording in elements of their response, this is often the case where a respondent shares or endorses the same views as an organisation which has made its response public before the consultation closes.
Weight of opinion
For ease of reading and interpretation, this report presents themes in order of how frequently they appear in comments. We begin with the theme of opposition to MUP, followed by supportive views and then other themes. Each chapter is structured thematically, describing the themes identified in responses from most to least commonly identified. All themes, including views shared by small numbers of respondents, are covered; an insightful view expressed by a very small number of participants is not given less weight than more general comments shared by a majority.
Similarly, all responses have an equal weighting. We recognise this means a response from an individual has the same weight as a response from an organisation which may represent many members. This means there is no subjective interpretation of the relative weight or merit of one stakeholder’s response over another; however, any patterns in views expressed, for example, by organisation type, are highlighted in the analysis.
Qualitative analysis of open-ended questions does not permit the quantification of results. However, to assist the reader in interpreting the findings, a framework is used to convey the most to least commonly identified themes in responses to each question:
- The most common / second most common theme; the most frequently identified.
- Many respondents; more than 50 respondents, another prevalent theme.
- Several respondents; 31-50, a recurring theme.
- Some respondents; 11-30, another theme.
- A few / a small number of respondents; <10, a less commonly mentioned theme.
- Two / one respondents; a singular comment or a view identified in two responses.
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