Why Price Matters

One of the most effective and cost-effective ways for society to minimise the damage from alcohol consumption is by regulating the price of alcohol.

The price of alcohol matters because when the price of alcohol goes down, consumption of alcohol goes up. The more affordable alcohol becomes, the more people use it, and the more harm we experience because of it.

Alcohol Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP)

Aim of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP)

To reduce the consumption of alcohol, particularly among hazardous and harmful drinkers, leading to reduction in alcohol-related harm.

SHAAP was the first organisation to call for MUP, when we published the report, ‘Price, Policy and Public Health’ in 2007.

What does MUP do?

It sets a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol below which no alcohol in Scotland may be sold.

1 unit = 10mls/8g of alcohol


ITEM – volume + strength


Whisky, 70cl, 40% abv


Vodka 70cl, 37.5% abv


Lager, 400ml, 4% abv


Wine, 75cl, 12.5% abv


Cider, 1L, 5% abv


Strong (‘white’) cider, 3L, 7.5% abv


Benefits of minimum pricing

       1. According to Sheffield University Modelling (2015), it will save lives - in the first year alone:

  • 60 fewer alcohol-related deaths,
  • 1,600 hospital admissions
  • 3,500 crimes.* (figures from University of Sheffield modelling)
  1. MUP targets the cheapest, strongest drinks like white cider, own-brand spirits and super-strength lager. These are bought mostly by the heaviest drinkers, so it will reduce harm in this group where premature deaths and hospitalisations are highest. Moderate drinkers won’t be affected.
  2. MUP only affects shops and supermarkets where alcohol is cheapest: drinks in pubs and restaurants already cost more than 50p per unit.
  3. MUP is widely supported by the public, politicians, doctors, police, homelessness services, children's charities and parts of the licensed trade.
  4. MUP is legal - passed in the Scottish Parliament in May 2012, tested in Europe, approved by the Scottish courts twice and finally by the UK Supreme Court in November 2017.
  5. MUP will save money - £1bn to the public purse over 10 years.

Why is MUP needed?

  • Alcohol is much cheaper to buy now than 2 generations ago: it is 60% more affordable today compared with 1980 -> higher consumption per head across society
  • Drinking habits have changed: people drink less in pubs/restaurants (on-sales) and more at home, as it is much cheaper to buy alcohol in supermarkets/shops (off-trade) -> higher consumption
  • 1,265 wholly-alcohol attributable deaths were registered in Scotland in 2016, an increase of 115 (10%) compared with 2015 – from National Records of Scotland
  • In addition, alcohol was a contributory factor in 3,705 deaths in Scotland in 2015 – from NHS Health Scotland
  • One in four alcohol deaths (1,048) was from cancer, 544 deaths were from heart conditions and strokes, and 357 deaths were from unintentional injuries eg falls.
  • At least 41,161 patients were admitted to hospital due to alcohol in 2015, including 11,068 due to unintentional injuries, 8,509 due to mental ill health and behavioural disorders and 4,291 due to liver disease and pancreatitis.

Evidence that MUP works from British Columbia, Canada

A series of studies by Stockwell et al in British Columbia between 2002-2009, when there were three increases in minimum prices for beer & four for spirits, found that, in the first year,  a 10% increase in average minimum price was associated with a 9% reduction alcohol-related hospital admissions and a 32% reduction in wholly alcohol related deaths.

What happens now?

MUP was implemented in Scotland on 1st May 2018. Over the following five years, its effects will be evaluated by a process being managed by NHS Health Scotland to assess impacts on:

  • public health, crime and disorder, public safety, public nuisance, and protecting children and young people from harm
  • Impact on producers and licence holders
  • Impacts by gender, age, socio-economic status and drinking status, where possible.

The findings from the evaluation will be considered by the Scottish Parliament after 5 years; the legislation contains a ‘sunset clause’, meaning MUP can be discontinued if it is felt the results are not positive; if they are, another vote will be required to continue minimum unit pricing thereafter.

Priorities for the future

The entire medical profession are confident the evaluations will show positive effects of MUP, and clinicians, who see the damage alcohol does to their patients on a daily basis, have a vital role to play in raising awareness about the harms of alcohol.

Nobody has ever suggested that MUP alone will resolve alcohol problems in Scotland. The current strategy, Changing Scotland’s Relationship with Alcohol, has 41 different components. MUP will make a vitally important contribution to reduce alcohol-related harms, especially among our most vulnerable populations, affecting people who drink and those around them. There also needs to be more investment in evidence-based services to provide the care and support for recovery that people need, and to reduce stigma that prevents people accessing help.

SHAAP will also continue to advocate for other evidence-based measures, including actions to reduce availability and marketing of alcohol, including exposure of young people to the latter.

You can raise the profile of this issue by using the hashtag #MUPsaveslives on your communications.

Read more about the campaign to achieve Minimum Unit Pricing in Scotland in our new Briefing: The MUP Issue