Church calls for minimum unit pricing of alcohol to be increased to 65p
Published on 7 February 2024 2 minutes read
The Church of Scotland has urged MSPs to back proposals to increase minimum unit pricing of alcohol to 65p.
Emma Jackson, convener of the Public Life and Social Justice group, wrote to party health spokespeople and the Scottish Government ahead of a ministerial statement at the Scottish Parliament tomorrow.
The measure is aimed at controlling alcohol-related deaths and hospitalisations.
She made the point that inflation has eroded the effectiveness of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) as the level at which it has been set – 50p - has not kept pace with prices.
A study by the University of Sheffield stated that the original 50p price was now equivalent to 41p.
Ms Jackson wrote: "If we want to see the 24% of the population who consume alcohol at hazardous or harmful levels reduce consumption and therefore reduce all its associated harms, we need the level of MUP to be uprated to 65p.
"To not do so would be to render the policy ultimately useless and could lead to an additional loss of more than 1,000 lives over 20 years."
CrossReach, the operating name of the Church's social care council, runs support services for people affected by alcohol and drug addiction, therefore has first-hand experience of the impact of harmful dependency.
The letter in full.
The Church of Scotland General Assembly has supported the concept of a Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) of alcohol for more than a decade, and we welcomed its introduced in Scotland in 2018, after years of legal challenge by the alcohol industry.
We know that MUP is a key way in which harms from alcohol can be reduced and it is measures such as this that will ultimately start to shift our attitudes and behaviours toward heavy consumption of alcohol.
Our experience of working with people who struggle with substance use through the work of CrossReach gives the Church of Scotland a direct understanding of the impact alcohol can have on lives, families and communities.
Extensive evaluation of MUP in Scotland shows the policy works: it reduced deaths directly caused by alcohol consumption by 13.4%, which equates to 156 lives saved per year.
And, the lives saved by MUP has been highest amongst the 40% of people living in Scotland's most deprived communities.
Alcohol-related hospital admissions were reduced by 4.1% at a time when our NHS is under extreme pressure. Inflation has eroded MUP's effectiveness, as the level at which MUP has been set has not kept pace with prices.
If we want to see the 24% of the population who consume alcohol at hazardous or harmful levels reduce consumption and therefore reduce all its associated harms, we need the level of MUP to be uprated to 65p.
To not do so would be to render the policy ultimately useless and could lead to an additional loss of more than 1,000 lives over 20 years.
While there are other key actions in relation to alcohol consumption including education, rehabilitation, trauma informed approaches and wider work to tackle poverty that need to take place both at scale and pace, we urge you to follow the evidence and to support the MUP legislation through the sunset clause and uprate the level to 65p.
This will contribute to Scotland being a healthier, fairer place to live.