Scottish minimum unit pricing for alcohol policy successfully introduced


Scotland’s retailers have largely complied with the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol policy, a new study has found.


The first assessment of the policy, which came into force in May 2018, concludes it has been well implemented. The study, published by NHS Health Scotland, found examples of both supermarkets and small shops failing to comply with minimum unit pricing (MUP), but these were ‘swiftly resolved’.


However, it highlights concerns that retailers had not been given enough time to prepare for the introduction of the policy and manage stock levels.


One trading standards officer told researchers: “Immediately before the implementation, there was a fair amount of ‘special deals’ going on which were being argued by the retail business as a way of getting rid of stock they might have difficulty getting rid of after the implementation.


“Which was perfectly legal at the time, but I’m not sure that was an intended consequence of the implementation.”


Among the changes that have taken place is a drop in the availability of high-strength ciders due to the increased cost.


One licensing standards officer noted: “Every shop in this area…every corner shop, village shop, had a five deep, ten wide shelf of that sort of product.


“You now see the odd one or two bottles in any shop, and most of them are saying it’s leftover stock from pre-implementation, you know.”


However, in border areas of the country, there were some reports of bus ‘booze cruises’ to England taking place, and people also obtaining their home delivery shopping from stores south of the border to take advantage of cheaper prices.


One police-licensing participant in the study describing having seen a ‘tour bus, it’s actually like a big-stretch limo…part of the party bus advertising was there was no MUP because it’s basically an English bus.”


There was no increase found in illegal alcohol-related activity following the introduction of MUP.


The policy, which sets a floor price of 50p per unit of alcohol, was introduced after a long-running legal battle challenging its introduction.


Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick welcomed the report saying it was “positive to hear that implementation has been so successful”.


He said: “After such a long delay, it was imperative that we moved quickly to put MUP in place.


“I am also pleased to note the report found no increases in illegal alcohol-related activity were identified as a result of MUP.”


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