The GMB has warned MSPs against the planned hike in minimum unit pricing (MUP) saying it will hurt lowest earning Scots hardest.

The trade union, representing many drink industry workers, said ministers had “been too quick to accept the untested assurances of advisors and lobby groups."

They also said that despite repeated requests the government had not justified the economic reasons for the increase.

However, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), a partnership of the Medical Royal Colleges in Scotland and the Faculty of Public Health, hit back at the union. They said not uprating the floor price for a unit of alcohol would "cost lives, mostly in Scotland’s poorest communities.”

READ MORE: Minimum unit price for alcohol to rise to 65p

If backed by MSPs, MUP will rise to 65p from September. It currently sits at 50p.

The change means a 700ml bottle of Scotch whisky will now cost a minimum of £18.20, while a bottle of vodka or gin will have a minimum price of £17.07.

A pack of four 440ml cans of cider will cost at least £5.15, while a four pack of beer will cost at least £5.72.

Last year, a report by Public Health Scotland said MUP had prevented hundreds of deaths and hospital admissions.

However, it said there was "limited evidence" that it reduced consumption among the heaviest drinkers.

The number of alcohol-specific deaths in Scotland rose from 1,120 in 2017 - the year before MUP - to a 13-year high of 1,245 in 2021.

The report did warn that the situation could have been much worse without MUP.

The union has written to Drugs and Alcohol Minister, Christina McKelvie, ahead of her appearance before Holyrood's Health Committee on Tuesday. 

They want the SNP minister to pause any hike to allow for the collection and scrutiny of “reliable data and to examine, in particular, how the policy is impacting Scotland’s poorest postcodes and its potential effect on one of Scotland’s most important industries.”

David Hume, GMB Scotland’s organiser said MSPs should be “wary of making hasty decisions with unintended consequences.”

He added: “We are not asking a hard question and, before voting on such a rise, MSPs should be asking it too.

“How are ministers justifying such a huge rise in MUP at a time when Scots are enduring a cost of living crisis?

“How can ministers say it is needed to match inflation when wages of Scots have stagnated for five years and their real spending power has stalled?

“We have had three ministers in charge of this policy in two years and it begs the question, if they do not know how to justify this increase, who are they listening to?”.

He said the increase was “not only disproportionate but punitive with, as usual, the harshest punishment inflicted on the lowest earners.”

READ MORE: The evidence is clear: Higher alcohol pricing has saved lives

Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, the chair of SHAAP, said: “David Hume of the GMB union states that the ‘huge’ increase in the level of MUP from 50p to 65p is unjustified.

"Yet he acknowledges that since 2018 spending power has risen by more than inflation, indicating that simply to maintain MUP’s effectiveness at its 2018 level requires a higher-than-inflation increase. Since an inflation correction alone takes MUP to over 62p, the proposed level of 65p is perfectly reasonable.

“He also calls for collection and scrutiny of reliable data – which is exactly what has happened. MUP has been subject to greater scrutiny than any previous Holyrood legislation, and the evidence is entirely clear: it is saving lives without significant unintended consequences.

“Mr Hume calls for particular attention to be paid to the impact of MUP on Scotland’s poorest postcodes. He can rest assured that the benefits of MUP are indeed most strongly seen in the poorest communities, with most of the lives saved and hospital admissions avoided being in the 40% most deprived areas.

“Mr Hume represents workers in the alcohol industry.

"Contrary to dire predictions from industry representatives in the past, the introduction of MUP has had no adverse effect on the alcohol industry.

"His arguments resemble oft-used alcohol industry attempts to undermine accepted evidence and delay effective harm reduction policies.

“The evidence is clear: MUP saves lives and reduces inequalities. Not to uprate the level, for the first time in six years, to 65p would cost lives, mostly in Scotland’s poorest communities.”

Members on the Health Committee will vote on the hike this week, if they approve it will then automatically go before the whole of the Parliament.

Even if they vote against it, it could still be put before MSPs. 


A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Research commended by internationally-renowned public health experts estimates that our world-leading Minimum Unit Pricing policy has saved hundreds of lives, likely averted hundreds of alcohol-attributable hospital admissions. The largest estimated reductions were seen in men and those living in the 40% most deprived areas.

“The proposals, which are supported by Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, strike a reasonable balance between public health benefits and any effects on the alcoholic drinks market and impact on consumers. Evidence suggests there has not been a significant impact on business and industry as a whole.

“Alongside MUP, we will continue to invest in treatment and a wide range of other measures, including funding for Alcohol and Drug Partnerships which rose to a record £112 million in 2023-24.”