There were 1,276 alcohol-specific deaths registered in Scotland in 2022, an increase of 2% on 2021. Every life lost was preventable and my deepest sympathy goes to all those affected by the loss of a loved one through alcohol.
Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) was introduced as part of our strategy to reduce alcohol related harm. The policy aim of MUP is to reduce health harms caused by alcohol consumption by setting a floor price below which alcohol cannot be sold. In particular, it targets a reduction in consumption of alcohol that is considered cheap, relative to its strength. It aims to reduce both the consumption of alcohol at population level and, in particular, among those who drink at hazardous and harmful levels. In doing so, it aims to reduce alcohol related health harms among hazardous and harmful drinkers and contribute to reducing harm at a whole population level.
MUP, as implemented in 2018, is subject to a sunset clause and will expire unless continued. We are reviewing its implementation and impact and considering whether it should continue. This consultation sets out the Scottish Government's proposals on MUP, based on the evidence around impacts to date, that the legislation should continue beyond 30 April 2024, and that the level of Minimum Unit Price should be 65 pence per unit.
Public Health Scotland's evaluation of MUP, published in 2023, has found that the evidence points to minimum unit pricing having a positive impact on health – it is estimated to have cut alcohol consumption, alcohol-attributable deaths and likely to have reduced hospital admissions compared to if the policy didn't exist. There was also no clear evidence of substantial negative impacts of the policy on the alcoholic drinks industry, or of social harms at the population level.
There were, however, consequences of the policy on dependent drinkers which we must address. MUP alone was not intended to address the needs of this group where alcohol treatment and care services are key. That's why, alongside MUP, last year £106.8 million was made available to Alcohol and Drugs Partnerships to support local and national treatment initiatives.
I do recognise that there is a balance to be struck, to ensure that we take steps to improve and support good population health whilst trying to minimise the potential impacts that has both on consumers and industry. This consultation is an opportunity for the Scottish Government to understand the views of respondents on the proposals set out as part of reaching a final decision on MUP. More detail on these considerations is set out in detail in the accompanying Interim Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) document. Your responses will help shape our next steps.
Elena Whitham MSP , Minister for Drugs and Alcohol Policy
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