Minimum unit pricing linked to 3.5% drop in Scottish alcohol sales, new figures show

The introduction of minimum unit pricing in Scotland had a smaller effect than previously thought, new figures have shown.

Picture: Shutterstock
Picture: Shutterstock

The move led to a 3.5 per cent reduction in alcohol sales in 2019, according to a new report from Public Health Scotland (PHS), slightly less than the figure of between four and five per cent previously reported.

PHS has updated some of its findings after Nielsen, the market research specialist which provides yearly alcohol sale figures, changed its data collection and sampling methodology in September 2019 without informing PHS.

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The updated figures also show that alcohol sales figures were 2.3 per cent higher than thought in 2018, rising from 9.9 to 10.2 litres.

The impact of minimum unit pricing on different categories of drink was not much changed by the updated statistics, with the biggest sales reductions in cider, perry and spirits.

There were also increases in per-adult sales of fortified wine and pre-prepared drinks.

The change made by Nielsen increased coverage of the independent sector, which makes up around six per cent of the off-trade market.

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PHS said it has implemented a system to make sure similar data problems do not happen again, and the health body has revised its previously released figures.

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.

“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.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said the reduced effect of minimum unit pricing was still encouraging.

“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,” she said.

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

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