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Call to raise MUP of alcohol as data shows no impact

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Alcohol consumption remains high

A new call for a rise in the minimum unit price of alcohol in Scotland has followed new data showing there was no evidence of it improving the health of the nation.

Research comparing Scotland with the North of England involving 23,455 adults in emergency departments, and 15,218 completing questionnaires found no evidence of a beneficial impact of minimum unit pricing north of the border.

Nor did a hike in the price prompt a switch from alcohol consumption to other drugs.

Drinkers and stakeholders largely reported not noticing any change in price or consumption.

The research published by the National Institute for Health Research, as part of a wider programme co-ordinated by Public Health Scotland, suggested that “the price per unit set (£0.50) was acceptable, but may be too low.”

Ministers claim the legislation, introduced in May 2018, has been more successful and point to figures showing that the sale of alcohol in shops fell in the following year. A Public Health Scotland report into alcohol sales in 2019 showed that 24% of all adults reported exceeding the safe weekly drinking guideline of 14 units a week, down from just over a third (34%) in 2003.

There were 1,020 deaths described as “wholly attributable to alcohol” while 23,685 people were admitted to hospital with an alcohol-related diagnosis, with some requiring more than one stay in hospital.

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Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today called for a 15p increase in the minimum unit price to 65p as he warned that Scottish Government inaction had allowed inflation to erode the impact of the original policy.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Alcohol misuse can wreck lives. Even today we are seeing an average of 20 people per week die due to alcohol misuse. That’s terrible news for individuals, families and communities.

“Experts have suggested that raising the minimum unit price to 65p in line with the original ambition of the policy would cut alcohol misuse and reduce the pressure on our health and justice systems.

“Once this step has been taken Scottish Liberal Democrats are keen to see the minimum unit price of alcohol linked to inflation so that the value of the policy does not decrease over time.

“This would send a clear signal about our resolve to win the battle against the bottle. Nicola Sturgeon should come back to Parliament with proposals to take this forward.”

SNP Public Health Minister, Maree Todd, told a Holyrood committee last week that the Scottish Government has “begun to gather information in order to review the minimum unit pricing of alcohol”.

She said: “We saw a rise in alcohol deaths over the course of the pandemic last year. That bucked the trend over a number of years.

“Last year, we saw a 17% increase in such deaths, which was devastating and tragic for those affected.”

She said the government is committed to reviewing the policy within two years of its introduction.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic prevented us from holding that review. We have begun to gather information in order to review the minimum unit pricing of alcohol.”



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