More than 80 organisations have come together in unprecedented move to urge MSPs to vote through proposals that would see the minimum unit price for alcohol hiked from 50 to 65 pence.

Dozens of charities, faith groups and medical organisations have signed a letter sent to members of the Scottish Parliament’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, calling for cross-party backing for the new MUP rate.

The committee is due to debate the Scottish Government's proposals on March 26 and report back to parliament with its advice and recommendations on March 29, ahead of a final vote on the issue by MSPs some time in late April.


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The joint letter, coordinated by Alcohol Focus Scotland and SHAAP (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems), argues that the evidence shows the policy has avoided hundreds of deaths since it was introduced in 2018 as well as reducing pressure on the NHS from alcohol.

The latest statistics on alcohol-related hospital admissions are due to be published tomorrow, with the 2023 figures for alcohol-specific deaths due in August.

If implemented, the 65 pence rate of MUP would come into effect at the end of September.

A sunset clause means that the legislation will automatically elapse unless MSPs vote to renew it.

An evaluation of the policy, published in the Lancet last year, estimated that around 156 alcohol-specific deaths a year had been prevented as a result of MUP when comparing Scotland to north-east England as a control population.

The effect was most pronounced among men and in more deprived communities.

The Herald: Alcohol-specific mortality rates have risen across the UK, but much more slowly in ScotlandAlcohol-specific mortality rates have risen across the UK, but much more slowly in Scotland (Image: Institute for Alcohol Studies)

While direct deaths from alcohol - such as deaths from liver disease - were at a 14-year high in Scotland in 2022 and up by 10% compared to 2018, north-east England saw a much steeper 38% increase in alcohol mortality rates over the same period.

The signatories warn that failure to raise MUP to 65p per unit will result in an estimated 800 more deaths over the next five years.

However, critics responding to the Scottish Government's consultation have described it as an "unnecessary tax on everyone" that "would disproportionately impact those living in poverty".

Feedback from Glasgow's recovery community, engaged by the council, said the policy "had been written by those who did not understand the nature of addiction".

One warned that increasing MUP "means true alcoholics will use increasingly scarce funds in an already difficult cost of living crisis".

The Herald: MUP was introduced in Scotland on May 1 2018 following years of court battles, but the rate was originally set by the Scottish Parliament in 2012MUP was introduced in Scotland on May 1 2018 following years of court battles, but the rate was originally set by the Scottish Parliament in 2012 (Image: Newsquest)

Supporters contend that, had the 50 pence rate - first set over a decade ago - risen in line with inflation, it would be worth around 62p today.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “Minimum pricing has resulted in tangible benefits to Scotland’s health and wellbeing.

"Hundreds of lives have been saved, it has helped reduce the burden on our NHS through significantly reducing hospital admissions at a time of major strain for the health service - and has resulted in a reduction in health inequalities affecting some of our most vulnerable communities.”


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Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, a retired liver specialist and chair of SHAAP, said: “The amount of alcohol harm is closely linked to how affordable it is, so it is no surprise that MUP has reduced that harm.

“As expected, it has been most effective in the most deprived communities who suffer the highest number of deaths and highest number of alcohol-related hospitalisations, thus reducing health inequalities."

One in six children in Scotland are estimated to be living with a parent with an alcohol problem.

Martin Crewe, chief executive of Barnardo’s Scotland - one of the letter's signatories - said tackling alcohol harms "must go beyond the focus on price alone", including more community-based support and action to limit children's exposure to marketing.

The Herald: Marketing policies in Scotland could be changed to restrict how beer, wine and spirits are displayed in shops and supermarketsMarketing policies in Scotland could be changed to restrict how beer, wine and spirits are displayed in shops and supermarkets (Image: PA)

First Minster Humza Yousaf recently confirmed that the Scottish Government will consult on revised proposals on alcohol advertising.

“We look forward to hearing a further update from the Scottish Government on their plans,” said Mr Crewe.

Lorraine Gillies, CEO of the Scottish Community Safety Network, said MUP could also play a role in reducing alcohol-related crime, violence and antisocial behaviour.

She said: “In 2021/22, 37% of offenders were thought to have been under the influence of alcohol by victims of violent crime and 43% of the accused in homicides in Scotland in the ten years between 2010-2020 were under the influence of alcohol at the time of their offence.

“Anything that reduces harmful or hazardous drinking is likely not only to reduce health harms but also these wider social harms.”