Shops urge governments not to up alcohol minimum unit pricing

The pleas follow a report by Public Health Scotland, which showed a 3% reduction in total alcohol sales since their MUP scheme was implemented

Retailers have urged the governments in Scotland and Wales not to raise the alcohol minimum unit price (MUP), as both review the scheme four years after its launch. 

Discussing a potential rise, a Scottish government spokesperson said: “It is important we have a robust evidence base to support any decision on any change in the level of MUP. The review will be completed in late 2023.” 

Under current laws in the two nations, there is a minimum unit price of alcohol of 50p per unit, with anyone with a licence unable to sell below that amount. 

However, retailers have warned that any future price hike will push customers towards alternative substances and the illicit alcohol trade

The Fed’s deputy vice-president, Mo Razzaq, said: “There are suggestions that MUP has already pushed people towards drugs, which are cheaper. We believe illicit sales in alcohol are also booming because there’s not enough enforcement action.” 

Razzaq also highlighted the double whammy of the introduction of a deposit return scheme (DRS) in August 2023. 

He added: “If the unit cost of MUP goes up alongside the extra cost per drinks container because of a DRS, then it’s going to be a double hit. Again, it could have the effect of pushing more people into buying illicitly.” 

Natalie Lightfoot, who runs Londis Solo Convenience in Glasgow, said she was worried about the impact on shoplifting in store. 

She said: “Inflation has already put off my legitimate customers wanting to gift alcohol this year. An increase in MUP would damage sales, but also steer more problem drinkers and addicts towards shoplifting alcohol. That would be a worry for me and my staff.” 

In Wales, retailers have also been asked to contribute as part of an ongoing review by the Welsh government. 

Fed Welsh president Vince Malone said: “There’s a fine balance to be struck, and the retailer cannot always shoulder the burden. Prevention is key.” 

The pleas follow a report by Public Health Scotland, which showed a 3% reduction in total alcohol sales since the scheme was implemented in 2018. 

Public health minister Maree Todd said: “MUP is achieving what it set out to do – a reduction in sales overall, with a focus on cheap, high-strength alcohol.” 

The body confirmed its figure took into account the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on alcohol sales plus factors such as seasonal variations. 

Its findings also suggest the reduction was largely driven by a decrease in sales of cider, perry, spirits and beer, and was partially offset by increased sales of fortified wine and wine

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