Minimum unit pricing in Scotland shows ‘encouraging’ results

Alcohol sales in Scotland have fallen to their lowest level in 25 years, according to new figures.

It follows the introduction of the Scottish Government’s minimum unit pricing (MUP) introduced in May last year.

Researchers say that while it is not yet possible to fully quantify the impact of MUP, its “early indicators were encouraging”.

‘Extremely encouraging’

The figures from NHS Scotland’s Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy report found that the volume of alcohol sold in the last year had fallen three per cent since 2017.

Scots purchased the equivalent of 44.7 million litres of pure alcohol (9.9 litres per adult) – the lowest since records began in 1994.

Lewis Morrison, Chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland, said: “Minimum unit pricing is a long-term strategy and to see results like this in the first year is extremely encouraging.”

Lives saved

But the research also shows that whilst the amount of alcohol bought has fallen, Scots are still buying nine per cent more alcohol than England and Wales.

NHS Health Scotland revealed that 23,494 people were admitted to hospital from alcohol-related illness in 2017-18, and in 2017, over 1,100 deaths were “wholly attributable to alcohol”.

In 2017 an average of 22 people died from alcohol every week, with death rates seven times higher in Scotland’s poorest areas.

The Scottish Government estimate that if trends continue, up to 392 lives could be saved over the next five years through the MUP strategy.

England and Wales

Scotland’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said, “behind every one of these statistics is a person, a family, and a community badly affected by alcohol harm.”

“Given the clear and proven link between consumption and harm, minimum unit pricing is the most effective and efficient way to tackle the cheap, high-strength alcohol that causes so much harm to so many families.”

Members of the Welsh Assembly have passed legislation to introduce MUP which is yet to be implemented.

The British Medical Association have urged Whitehall to consider a similar law in England “without delay”.

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