Scotland hasn't seen 'scare stories' about minimum unit pricing play out

Scotland introduced the measure back in 2018, after it was first proposed in 2008
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

12.58 6 Jan 2022

Share this article

Scotland hasn't seen 'scare st...

Scotland hasn't seen 'scare stories' about minimum unit pricing play out

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

12.58 6 Jan 2022

Share this article

The introduction of minimum unit pricing in Scotland has not seen 'scare stories' play out.

That is according to Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland - a charity working to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm.

Scotland introduced the measure back in 2018, with Ireland recently following suit.


Alison told The Pat Kenny Show lots of scenarios never came to pass.

"We haven't seen any of the scaremongering come to pass - let's be clear: in Scotland, we had a really aggressive response to the proposal and to the legislation.

"From the initial proposition in 2008, it took us until 2018 - 10 years - to actually implement this policy, because the industry were so against it.

"The implementation has been pretty straight forward, there's not been any significant issues of non-compliance.

"We've not seen some of the scare stories around people switching to illegal drugs, which people were concerned about.

"We've not seen masses of people decamping to the north of England to buy their alcohol, we've not seen the industry being damaged by the policy.

"And in fact, for smaller retailers, they're saying that it's enabling them to compete on a level playing ground with supermarkets".

She says the country was trying to tackle the next big health issue, after taking Ireland's example of the smoking ban.

"This conversation actually dates back to about 2008 in Scotland, when we'd seen massive increases in the number of deaths here.

"A tripling of liver disease deaths from the late 1970s.

"And ministers were really looking at the success of the smoking ban - which obviously Scotland copied from Ireland - and thinking 'What's the next big public health challenge?'

"And really the alcohol problem was flashing bright red for them".

'Price is top of the list'

She says price is the biggest influencer when it comes to alcohol.

"They were looking at what's the international evidence of what works in tackling alcohol harm - and price is really top of that list.

"That's what the World Organisation say, it's one of the three best buys for alcohol policy".

Asked about direct benefits, she says related deaths fell by 10% in the first year.

"Minimum price has delivered a 3% reduction in off-sales in Scotland - that may not sound huge, but actually that's exactly the kind of order of effect that we were expecting to see.

"The logic is when consumption goes down, then harm goes down.

"And in the first full year of operation, we saw a reduction in alcohol-specific deaths in Scotland of 10%".

However, she admits this drop has not been sustained.

"In both Scotland and in England, we've seen a dramatic increase in deaths - which we think is due to the increased drinking amongst heavier drinkers during the pandemic".

But she says a distinction should be made between those who are alcohol-dependent and those who are drinking too much.

"This policy was never developed to deal with people who are chronically dependent on alcohol.

"What it is designed to do is to prevent people from developing that kind of chronic level of dependence."

Scotland hasn't seen 'scare stories' about minimum unit pricing play out

00:00:00 / 00:00:00


Main image: A 'Price Cut' sign on canned lager on shelves of a Tesco supermarket in Scotland in July 2010. Picture by: David Kilpatrick / Alamy Stock Photo

Share this article

Read more about

Alcohol Alcohol-dependent Alcohol-specific Deaths Alcohol Focus Scotland Alcohol Pricing Alison Douglas Minimum Unit Pricing The Pat Kenny Show

Most Popular