The latest data published by Public Health Scotland (PHS) has concluded that Minimum Unit Pricing has reduced overall alcohol sales.

The study, carried out in collaboration with the University of Glasgow, shows a net reduction in total per-adult sales of alcohol of three percent in the three years following the implementation of MUP in 2018.

This reflects a 1.1% fall in Scotland in contrast to a 2.4% increase in England and Wales. The net reduction in total alcohol sales was driven by a reduction in per-adult sales of alcohol through the off-trade (supermarkets and other shops), with no observed impact to sales through the on-trade (restaurants and bars).

This work builds on an earlier report which demonstrated a similar fall in off-trade alcohol sales in the first 12 months following the implementation of MUP. This latest work strengthens these findings by demonstrating that initial fall in alcohol sales was maintained throughout the three years following the introduction of the legislation in Scotland. The methods used, such as including adjustment for a geographical control and for COVID-19 associated restrictions, provide confidence that the reduction in sales demonstrated are a result of the implementation of MUP.

Lucie Giles, Public Health Intelligence Principal at PHS, said:

“The latest data shows a reduction in per-adult sales of pure alcohol in Scotland at the same time an increase in England and Wales was observed. We found net reductions in per-adult sales of cider, perry, spirits and beer, and net increases in per-adult sales of fortified wine and wine. Taken together, the overall impact of MUP on total per-adult alcohol sales in Scotland was a 3% net reduction, driven by a reduction in off-trade sales. We found little evidence to suggest that MUP caused any changes in per-adult sales of alcohol through the on-trade, suggesting that MUP did not cause a substantial shift towards alcohol consumption in pubs.

“Our main finding was consistent across a range of different conditions as tested through our additional analyses. We can conclude that, across Scotland as a whole, MUP has been effective in reducing alcohol consumption in the first three years of implementation.”

Jim Lewsey, Professor of Medical Statistics at the School of Health and Wellbeing, University of Glasgow, said:

“The methods we’ve used in this study allow us to be confident that the reduction in per-adult alcohol sales that we’ve shown is as a result of the introduction of MUP, rather than some other factor. Incorporating data from England & Wales into our analysis controls for any changes in sales in a neighbouring region where the legislation was not introduced. This was of particular importance with the COVID-19 pandemic occurring in our three year post-intervention study period, as we know the pandemic impacted on where people were able to purchase alcohol.

“We’ve been able to adjust for other factors, such as household income, sales of alcohol through pubs and clubs and of other drink types. This statistical method also allows us to take into consideration any existing trends and seasonal variation in the data, which may have existed independently of MUP, but which could have impacted on alcohol sales following its introduction. The methods we’ve used and the consistency in our results allow us to be confident that the reduction in alcohol sales is associated with the introduction of MUP in Scotland.”

The MUP Evaluation Portfolio comprises a number of research studies that are being undertaken to assess the impact of MUP across a range of outcomes, many of which have already concluded. A report bringing together all of the evaluation findings will be published in 2023.

Read the full report Evaluating the impact of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) on sales-based alcohol consumption in Scotland at three years post-implementation.