MSPs back Scottish government plans to increase minimum alcohol unit price by 30%

MSPs have voted to increase the minimum unit price of alcohol by 30%.

The minimum unit price (MUP) will now be increased from 50p to 65p in a bid to tackle deaths and hospital admissions linked to alcohol harm.

In 2018, Scotland became the first country in the world to ban retailers from selling alcohol below 50p per unit.

The Scottish government announced its plans for an increase in February, with parliamentary approval received on Wednesday.

As part of a "sunset clause" when the legislation was introduced, it had been due to end on 30 April. The vote now ensures its continuation.

The increase will come into force on 30 September - a move designed to counteract rises in inflation.

Price change under the 65p MUP:
• Scotch whisky 40%: 700ml bottle will increase from £14 to £18.20.
• Vodka/gin 37.5%: 700ml bottle will increase from £13.13 to £17.07.
• Wine 13%: 750ml bottle will increase from £4.88 to £6.34.
• Beer 5%: 4x440ml cans will increase from £4.40 to £5.72.
• Cider 4.5%: 4x440ml cans will increase from £3.96 to £5.15.

Christina McKelvie, drugs and alcohol policy minister, said: "Research commended by internationally-renowned public health experts estimated that our world-leading policy has saved hundreds of lives, likely averted hundreds of alcohol-attributable hospital admissions and contributed to reducing health inequalities.

"Despite this progress, deaths caused specifically by alcohol rose last year - and my sympathy goes out to all those who have lost a loved one.

"As we have made clear, the policy aims to reduce alcohol-related harm by reducing consumption at population level, with a particular focus on targeting people who drink at hazardous and harmful levels.

"We believe the proposals strike a reasonable balance between public health benefits and any effects on the alcoholic drinks market and impact on consumers.

"Evidence suggests there has not been a significant impact on business and industry as a whole but we will continue to monitor this."

Around 700 people are hospitalised and 24 die each week as a result of alcohol, according to the Scottish government.

Official figures revealed 1,276 people died from alcohol-related health issues in 2022 - the highest number since 2008.

Public Health Scotland (PHS) previously said there were 13.4% fewer alcohol-related deaths than would have been the case without minimum pricing being in force.

However, an evaluation noted there was "limited evidence to suggest MUP was effective in reducing consumption for people with alcohol dependence".

Ahead of the vote, Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the hike "disproportionally penalises responsible drinkers on a low income".

The Scottish Tory MSP added: "And if that's not bad enough, this extra money does not go to fund addiction services.

"Presiding officer, we all know that addiction is complex and requires a multifaceted approach. Yet the SNP has one approach and that is to put up the price.

"They have their silver bullet and that silver bullet is a blank.

"Because what is clear, and crystal clear, is that more people died and more people suffer alcohol-related deaths now than in 2018, when MUP was introduced."

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The Glasgow MSP said men from deprived areas are "drinking more with MUP in place than before, and others are switching to spirits".

The doctor added: "The Scottish government has failed to provide the necessary investment and prevention and treatment services.

"If the SNP were to ever want to get a grip, people suffering from dependence should have the right to access treatment and rehabilitation via our right to recovery bill. That is the priority, not forcing every Scot to pay more."