Fears unfounded

Drinks trade unscathed by minimum pricing

A rise in revenue offset the fall in volume

Scotland’s drinks industry was largely unaffected by the introduction of price controls on alcohol, a report has found.

Minimum unit pricing, which placed a minimum charge of 50p on each unit of alcohol, aimed to curb excess drinking that contributes to health-related problems and early deaths.

The drinks industry led a legal campaign claiming it could damage the industry, delaying the introduction of MUP until 2018.

However, a report commissioned by Public Health Scotland has found no significant economic harm to businesses.

The research, carried out by Frontier Economics, found that any decline in volume was largely offset by the higher value of sales, with no reports of store closures or job losses directly related to MUP.

“Evidence gathered does not suggest that MUP has significantly impacted the economic performance of the alcoholic drinks industry in Scotland,” it said.

“There were one or two individual smaller or specialist retailers who perceived that MUP had reduced their revenues or profits or limited opportunities for growth, though not to an extent that affected staffing or store viability, while others reported no impact,” the report said.

Public health minister Maree Todd said the latest research suggested the policy had succeeded in lowering consumption of the types of alcohol most often linked with harmful drinking, without damaging Scotland’s alcohol industry.

The Scottish government has said it is keeping the level of minimum pricing under review, with some campaigners arguing it should rise to 65p per unit. A consultation is also taking place on plans to restrict alcohol marketing.

Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, chairman of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, said the report showed fears of an impact on the industry were “unfounded”.

He added: “There are many similarities between the alarmist debate now on plans to restrict alcohol marketing and those concerns aired when minimum unit pricing was introduced.”

Campaign group Alcohol Focus Scotland said the report “gives the lie” to industry claims that the policy would lead to job losses for companies supplying own-label or value brands.

The Scotch Whisky Association, which mounted a legal challenge to the law, said the research was one part of an “overall evaluation”, and it would await its completion before drawing any conclusions.

A spokeswoman added: “We continue to work in partnership with a range of stakeholders to promote responsible drinking and to tackle alcohol-related harm.”

There was no indication as to how the pandemic or the cost of living has contributed to alcohol sales.

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