EDINBURGH, UK – Scotland has raised the legal minimum price of alcohol by almost one-third starting October to tackle alcohol abuse and improve public health.
Deputy First Minister Shona Robison confirmed the minimum unit price (MUP) will increase from 50p to 65p per unit on 30 September. This means a standard bottle of whisky cannot be sold for under £18.20, while minimum wine prices rise above £6.
The Scottish government says higher floor prices help reduce alcohol-related deaths, which spiked during COVID. Studies suggest MUP has lowered mortality by 13% versus a no-policy scenario.
Critics argue the 30% hike unfairly penalizes consumers amid a cost-of-living crisis. But Ms. Robison states MUP is an evidence-based policy that saves lives. She may also introduce a levy on retailers profiting from higher prices.
Since MUP came into effect in 2018, shops earn the difference between wholesale and legal retail costs. Experts estimate this excess revenue at £30 million annually – set to increase with the new 65p level.
A potential tax could fund alcohol treatment and recovery services. Scotland previously had an alcohol public health levy from 2012-2015. The government is consulting industry and health experts before deciding on any new measures.
While retail groups have welcomed the MUP rise, they strongly oppose an additional tax which they call unreasonable. But public health advocates maintain higher prices are vital to curb Scotland’s alcohol abuse epidemic.
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