Brand new research published in the Lancet has found that the alcohol minimum unit pricing (MUP) policy in Scotland has had a lasting impact. Since its introduction in 2018, there has been a 7.7% decrease in household alcohol purchases.
Wales introduced MUP last year and is also seeing a similar trend in the reduction of household alcohol purchases.
The evidence shows that the alcohol floor price is an effective policy to reduce alcohol purchases, specifically in the households with the highest purchases.

Scotland was the first country to introduce the MUP policy in May, 2018. The policy was initially adopted in 2012 and implemented six years later, winning a lengthy legal challenge posed by the alcohol industry. The floor price for a unit of alcohol was set at 50 pence. Wales implemented MUP more recently, in March, 2020, at the same price as Scotland.

As Movendi International previously reported, the Scottish MUP has been proven effective across the past two years. Most recent statistics released by the National Records for Scotland show that alcohol-specific deaths decreased by 10.2% from 2018 to 2019, since MUP introduction.

The evidence is also promising for MUP in Wales. Recent survey data show that Welsh people are consuming less alcohol as a result of the MUP policy.

The latest Lancet study analyzes alcohol purchases of both Scotland and Wales. The study examines data from 35,242 British households providing detailed information on 1.24 million alcohol purchases in 2015–18 and the first half of 2020. The findings show:

  • 7.7% decrease in household alcohol purchases in Scotland.
  • 8.6% decrease in household alcohol purchases in Wales.
  • The reductions in purchases were largely from households which purchased the most alcohol.

Our previous work suggested that the introduction of an MUP in Scotland during May 2018 was associated with an immediate reduction in the amount of alcohol that households bought from shops or supermarkets,” said Professor Peter Anderson, lead researcher of the study from Newcastle University, as per The Guardian.

This latest analysis shows that the policy has continued to make an impact, with data showing a sustained drop in overall units of alcohol bought by some of the highest-consuming households, two years on.

We can now see that the introduction of an MUP in Wales at the beginning of March 2020 has had a similar impact to the one we saw in Scotland in 2018.”

Professor Peter Anderson, lead researcher of the study, Newcastle University
Decrease in household alcohol purchases in Scotland
A Lancet study shows that since MUP introduction Scottish households reduced alcohol purchases by 7.7%.
Decrease in household alcohol purchases in Wales
A Lancet study shows that since MUP introduction Welsh households reduced alcohol purchases by 8.6%.

Citizens, activists and advocates hail MUP policy solution

The alcohol floor price is receiving increasing public support, with citizens, public health advocates and activists all hailing MUP.

This is powerful, real-world evidence of the success of minimum unit pricing as a harm reduction policy,” said Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, as per BBC.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair, Alcohol Health Alliance

Prof Gilmore called on the UK government to follow the lead of Scotland and Wales to introduce MUP in England.

Westminster has said time and time again that it is waiting for evidence from Scotland and Wales on minimum unit pricing, meanwhile 80 people a day are dying from an alcohol-related cause,” said Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, as per The National.

The evidence is here – it’s time for the Government to introduce minimum unit pricing in England in order to save lives, cut crime and reduce pressure on our NHS and emergency services.”

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair, Alcohol Health Alliance

Joan Goode is a mother who lost her daughter to cheap alcohol. As a citizen she supports any policy solution to stop the harm cheap alcohol is causing to children and youth.

Alcohol is too cheap and far too often ends up in the hands of children. I fully support any measure that increases the price of cheap alcohol and helps the young and vulnerable,” said Joan Goode, as per The Guardian.

Joan Goode, UK citizen

Meanwhile, communities are calling to increase the MUP in Scotland to 65 pence. As health advocates point out, the MUP level was initially set in 2012 and has now eroded due to inflation.

Not only is MUP continuing to have the intended effect in reducing overall alcohol consumption in Scotland, it is those that tended to buy the most alcohol who are most likely to reduce the amount they purchase,” said Alison Douglas, the chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, as per The Guardian.

Alison Douglas, chief executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland

MUP is working, it is saving lives but to continue to do so at a meaningful level, SHAAP propose an immediate increase in the minimum price to 65p per unit,” said Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, The Chair of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), as per The Herald

Resetting the level at 65p would take account of inflation and allow a modest uplift to increase the health benefits.”

Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, Chair, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP)

Listen to our podcast on the Scottish MUP with Alison Douglas, Chief Executive, Alcohol Focus Scotland


BBC: “Minimum unit alcohol price has ‘lasting impact’

The Guardian: “Experts urge minimum alcohol pricing in England after survey shows success

The National: “Alcohol sales down eight per cent since minimum pricing introduced