Scotland alcohol sales fall following introduction of MUP

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pic:getty/DA69
Pic:getty/DA69

Related tags: Scotland, Minimum unit pricing

The amount of alcohol sold in Scotland has fallen since the introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP) in May 2018, according to the first analysis of off-trade alcohol sales in the first full year of MUP.

The NHS Health Scotland study looks at changes in alcohol sales; noting that alcohol sales in the 12 months following the implementation of MUP fell in Scotland but rose in England and Wales (where MUP is not in place).

The volume of pure alcohol sold per adult in Scotland’s off-trade sector fell by 3.6% in the year following the introduction of MUP, according to the study. Volumes fell from 7.4 litres to 7.1 litres; compared to a rise from 6.3 litres to 6.5 litres in England and Wales.

Scotland became the first country in the world to introduce minimum unit pricing​ (MUP) for alcohol in May 2018, after a six year legal battle. 

Biggest impact on cider 

In Scotland, alcohol must now be sold for at least 50p (65c) per unit of alcohol (10ml/8g alcohol) in an effort to tackle damage caused by cheap, high strength alcohol. Prior to the introduction of MUP, it was possible to buy 14 units of alcohol (the government’s low risk drinking guidelines for one week) for just £2.52 ($3.30).

In Scotland, alcohol consumption was down 3.6% from the year before. In England and Wales, it was down 3.2%. Beer, spirits, wine and cider categories all saw decreases: while fortified wines sales increased.

In the year following the implementation of MUP in Scotland, per-adult sales of cider fell by the greatest percentage (-18.6%), followed by spirits (-3.8%) and then wine (-3.0%), compared with the previous year.

Sales of beer in Scotland remained relatively stable (-1.1%) and sales of fortified wine rose (16.4%).

In England & Wales, sales of cider (8.2%), beer (7.0%) and spirits (5.6%) rose, while sales of fortified wine fell (-11.2%), compared with the previous year. Sales of wine remained relatively stable (-1.3%).

Most affected was cider: a category which in Scotland includes cheap super-strength cider that is favoured by dependent and ill drinkers.

Sales of cider decreased 18.6% in Scotland post-MUP (compared to 8.2% across England and Wales). This corresponds with the fact the category had the greatest relative increase in average sales price once MUP came into force.  

The average sales price of off-trade cider has risen from approximately 43ppu (pence per unit) to 56ppu under MUP; a rise not seen in England & Wales. Cider is now more expensive in Scotland, compared to that of 42ppu in England & Wales.

Lucie Giles, Public Health Intelligence Advisor, NHS Health Scotland, said: “This is the first time we have been able to analyse sales data covering the full year following the introduction of MUP, and it is encouraging that off-trade alcohol sales fell in Scotland following its implementation.

“The findings show that the scale of change varies according to drink category. For example, per adult sales of cider saw the greatest decrease, and this was likely to be associated with cider having the greatest relative increase in average sales price, once MUP came into force.

“The analysis of per adult sales data in the North East and North West of England did not provide evidence of substantial cross-border purchasing. We will continue to examine a variety of data sources to ensure we understand cross-border activity as far as possible.”

Last year, a BMJ study reported that minimum unit pricing appears to have reduced the amount of alcohol purchased by Scottish households by 7.6% - more than double that of estimates. 

The full report from NHS Health Scotland can be found here.​ Further reports will provide statistical analyses of the impact of MUP on sales-based consumption at both one and three years post-MUP. These are expected to report in late-2020 and then in mid-2022.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety

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