A study has found that, the introduction of minimum pricing of alcohol has had a lasting impact in Scotland and is starting to have an effect in Wales, a study has found.

The study led by Newcastle University and published in Lancet Public Health shows a Minimum Unit Price (MUP) policy for alcohol, introduced in Scotland in 2018, continues to have a positive impact on lowering drinking levels two years on. 

Scotland was the first in world to bring in MUP for alcohol in May 2018, currently fixed at 50p per unit, while Wales introduced the policy last March.

Alcohol purchases decreased by 7.7% in Scotland following the introduction of the MUP and, in both Scotland and Wales, households that tended to buy the most alcohol were those most likely to reduce their amount.

The study used data from Kantar WorldPanel’s household shopping panel, which provided detailed information on 1.24 million separate alcohol purchases between 2015 and 2018, and the first half of 2020.

The impact of introducing the MUP in Scotland was analysed using purchases in Northern England as a control, alongside the impact of introducing MUP in Wales with Western England as the control.

Professor Peter Anderson, from Newcastle University, who led the study, said: “The introduction of a MUP in Scotland has made a significant impact on reducing alcohol levels, with a sustained drop in overall units bought by some of the highest-consuming households two years on.

“We can now see that the introduction of a MUP in Wales at the beginning of March 2020 has had a similar impact to the one we saw in Scotland in 2018 and we hope to see a continued benefit

“This is an important step forwards in addressing high levels of alcohol-related health problems and social harm that is caused by too much alcohol consumption.”

The team found that the highest purchasing households in Scotland and Wales that fell into the very lowest income bracket (the lowest fifth) did not seem to reduce the amount of alcohol they purchased, and so their expenditure on alcohol increased in line with the increase in price.

Lower purchasing households, including those with the very lowest incomes, did not increase their expenditure on alcohol, following the introduction of MUP.

Whilst household purchases of alcohol increased during covid-19 lockdowns, the level of impact of MUP between Scotland compared to Northern England, and Wales compared to Western England remained the same.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, described the research as “hugely encouraging”.

She said: “Not only is MUP continuing to have the intended effect in reducing overall alcohol consumption in Scotland, it is those that tended to buy the most alcohol who are most likely to reduce the amount they purchase … We are seeing early signs that this reduction in consumption may be beginning to translate into wider improvements in health, with a reduction of 10% in alcohol-specific deaths in the first year of MUP.”