SCOTLAND – In a bid to curb alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations, the Scottish government is considering a substantial 30 percent increase in the Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) for alcoholic drinks.
The proposal suggests raising the MUP from 50p to 65p, affecting the minimum prices of various alcoholic beverages.
If approved, the minimum cost of a standard bottle of whisky in Scotland would surge from US$15.08 to US$19.39, vodka to US$18.20, and a four-pack of basic lager to US$4.93.
The government introduced the MUP legislation in 2018, and as part of a ‘sunset clause,’ the rule is set to become ineffective at the end of April unless Parliament votes to retain it.
Deputy First Minister Shona Robinson highlighted the positive impact of the existing MUP legislation, stating, “Research shows the MUP legislation has saved hundreds of lives, likely averted hundreds of alcohol-attributable hospital admissions, and contributed to reducing health inequalities.”
The proposal will be presented to Parliament on February 19, with the potential implementation date set for September 30, 2024.
Last year, Public Health Scotland reported a 13.5 percent reduction in deaths wholly attributable to alcohol, associated with the minimum pricing regulation.
Robinson emphasized the need for a balanced approach, saying, “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.”
However, the Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA) expressed disappointment over the decision, particularly amid a cost-of-living crisis.
SBPA CEO Emma McClarkin argued, “The vast majority of people consume alcohol responsibly, and this increase will put further pressure on strained household budgets.”
McClarkin also raised concerns about the lack of substantial evidence supporting the effectiveness of the policy, stating, “The evaluation also showed no substantial evidence of the policy working.”
Additionally, she pointed out potential distortions in consumer behavior with the future introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), urging the Scottish Government to reconsider the increase and focus on proven interventions to tackle alcohol misuse.
Meanwhile, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association plans to call for the scrapping of minimum pricing, arguing that it is an ineffective and unfair strategy to combat alcohol abuse, especially during a cost-of-living crisis.
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