Scots to impose minimum unit pricing on alcohol

27 February 2018

The Scottish parliament agreed yesterday (February 26) that the minimum price on a unit of alcohol from May 1 this year is to be 50 pence.

The move has met with a mixed response: supporters called for further increases and the drinks industry warned of a new “black market”.

Ministers in the Scottish parliament voted yesterday (26 February) for minimum unit pricing (MUP) to be 50p when it is introduced later this year.

This will raise the cheapest price for a four-pack of beer from £1 to £1.78, a three litre bottle of cider from £3.59 to £11.22, a 70cl bottle of vodka from £9.97 to £13.11, Scotch from £11 to £14 and a bottle of wine from £3.09 to £4.98.

The biggest single rise will be for high proof cider where the price increase will be just over 212%.

Scotland’s Health Secretary, Shona Robison, said that: “With alcohol on sale today in some places at just 16p per unit, we have to tackle the scourge of cheap, high-strength drink that causes so much damage to so many families. This move will save thousands of lives.”

Scotland first proposed MUP back in 2011 but the move was challenged by the Scotch Whisky Association, which argued it breached European competition laws.

Since then there has been a lengthy legal battle, first in the EU and subsequently in the UK where the Supreme Court finally ruled last year that it could go ahead.

Observers of the Scottish scene say that the Scottish National Party would be sensitive to a backlash among voters, particularly after its losses in last year’s general election. The drinks trade has also warned that the introduction of MUP risks the creation of a new “black market” for alcohol.

A statement from The Wine and Spirit Trade Association said: “There is a real concern that the implementation of a minimum unit price provides a significant incentive to trade alcohol illicitly. Minimum unit pricing will create a price differential between the production cost of a product and its retail price well in excess of the retailer margin.

 “This therefore creates an incentive to sell products that will be available at wholesale in Scotland, or from other parts of the UK where the regulations do not apply, outside of legitimate retailing channels to profit while still undercutting legitimate retailers.”