Minimum unit pricing (MUP) has contributed to a 3.5% fall in off-trade alcohol sales, according to updated analysis.

The figures from Public Health Scotland (PHS) show reductions in cider, perry and spirits, while sales of fortified wine and ready-to-drink beverages increased.

Consumption was at 9.9 litres of pure alcohol per adult – equivalent to 19.1 units per week and the lowest level in Scotland since 1994.

The updated estimates of population-level alcohol consumption in Scotland were higher than previously reported.

Lucie Giles, PHS public health intelligence principal, said: “The incorporation of data giving improved coverage of alcohol sales in the independent sector allows for a more robust analysis of that sector and a more accurate estimate of population alcohol consumption.

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“It enhances the robustness of our comprehensive evaluation of the impact of MUP in Scotland and the wider MESAS (Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy) programme.

“PHS will continue to monitor and evaluate Scotland’s alcohol strategy through the annual MESAS report, whilst a statistical analysis of off-trade alcohol sales in the three years following the implementation of MUP will be published in 2022.”

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Sales of spirits were down

In the updated analysis, undertaken in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, PHS found the estimated net effect of MUP to be a 3.5% reduction in off-trade alcohol sales per adult in the year following implementation.

This is after adjustment for sales in the control area, disposable income and substitution between trade sectors.

In Scotland, the minimum price per unit of alcohol was set at 50p per unit of alcohol, from May 1 2018.

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Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “Despite the decrease in sales being slightly lower than previous reports have shown, it is still hugely encouraging to see that minimum unit pricing for alcohol seems to be changing our drinking habits for the better.

“This is true particularly amongst poorer, heavier drinkers who suffer the most harm.

“As expected, Scots appear to be buying less cheap, high-strength cider.

“Other research studies suggest that people are also switching to smaller size packs and lower strength products.

“Even a small reduction in the amount of alcohol consumed in Scotland will mean fewer lives damaged by or lost to drink.”