The Scottish government looks set to move forward with plans to increase its alcohol minimum unit pricing following the end of its consultation in November.
While a start date is yet to be confirmed, the measure is likely to be included in the Scottish Budget to be announced on 19 December. The change would increase the minimum unit price from 50p to 65p.
The change is proposed due to fears that rampant inflation has undercut the policy’s ability to push drinkers away from high-strength low-cost lines.
Scotland district president Hussan Lal said: “We understand the Scottish government’s wish to raise the minimum price to 65p because inflation has eroded the real value of the current price.
“We are also pleased ministers are not aiming for 80p or more – the price considered earlier this year – which would have affected hard-working individuals who look forward to a wine or beer in their downtime. However, we are concerned ministers seem to be so focused on this blunt measure for curbing problem drinking, when there is mixed evidence that it works.
“It is vital the Scottish government also provides adequate treatment for Scots who are addicted to alcohol, and invests in effective education campaigns to prevent this happening in the first place. People with untreated alcohol problems need help and we know some of them are among those contributing to rising levels of theft in shops.”
How Scottish stores’ prices and margins will change
Unlike alcohol duties, minimum unit pricing increases retailer margins on affected lines. When it was introduced, research by RN showed the 50p rate added an extra £828 in monthly profit to a former Scotland district president’s 1,800sq ft shop.
However, analysis of the upcoming 65p rate shows it will have less impact on shelf prices and retailer margins, as retail prices in most segments are already above the rate required by a 65p minimum unit price.
Even high-strength lines such as super-strength beers and pre-mix drinks, and value wines, are already usually priced above the threshold.
The most-affected categories from a new 65p-per-unit rate will be value and own-label spirits and high-strength-high-volume cider lines.