Researchers are set to look at the impact of alcohol minimum pricing on Scotland’s homeless population.

The study will explore how the legislation - introduced in May last year - affects homeless drinkers, including looking at the possibility that some may have turned to illicit alcohol or drugs.

Led by scientists from Glasgow Caledonian University’s Substance Use & Misuse research group, the research is the first of its kind to look at the impact of the legislation on vulnerable community groups.

Professor Carol Emslie, who is leading the study, said: “Scotland is the first country in the world to implement alcohol minimum unit pricing.

“We need to explore the potential benefits of this policy for homeless people but we also need to understand any potential negative consequences.

“We do not know how vulnerable groups such as people experiencing homeless have adapted to the higher price of alcohol such as vodka and strong white cider.

“Our study will inform decisions about minimum unit pricing in Scotland and provide guidance for other countries planning to introduce the policy.”

Minimum unit pricing requires all licensed premises to set a floor price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol, below which alcohol cannot be sold.

It is designed to target the heaviest drinkers who buy most of the cheapest, strongest alcohol.

While worldwide research suggests that minimum pricing will benefit the general population, it is hoped this research will help to inform the Scottish Parliament of its impact on vulnerable groups.

Professor Lawrie Elliott, co-leading the project with Prof Emslie, said: “You might think MUP would affect homeless people and street drinkers the most, given they represent the poorest groups in society and tend to consume cheap alcohol.

“However, we don’t know this, nor do we know about any unintended consequences of the legislation for example switching to illicit alcohol or drugs.

“We are extremely pleased to be working with our partners The Homeless Network and grateful for the funding provided by the Chief Scientist Office.”

A spokesman for The Homeless Network added: “We are very pleased to be supporting the university with this important piece of research now that the policy on minimum pricing is well-established in Scotland.”

The scientists at Glasgow Caledonian University will work with colleagues at the University of Stirling, Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University and the University of Victoria in Canada to complete the research.

It will also be supported by experts from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) and The Homeless Network.

The study will explore homeless people and street drinkers’ experiences of minimum unit pricing, as well as talking to organisations which provide support to homeless people.