Evaluation of Minimum unit pricing

In 2012, the Scottish Parliament passed the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012, under which all alcohol sold through licensed premises in Scotland cannot be sold below a certain price depending on the amount of alcohol contained in the product for sale. This is called minimum unit pricing (MUP).  In a draft Order, Scottish Ministers proposed to Parliament that the level should be set at 50 pence per unit of alcohol (ppu) upon introduction.

The legislation contains what is known as a ‘sunset clause’. This means that it will expire after the sixth year of implementation unless the Scottish Parliament votes for it to continue. To inform this decision there is a ‘review clause’ requiring that the Minister presents a review report to parliament on the impact of MUP after five years of its operation.

The Scottish Government has tasked us, under the Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) work programme, with leading the evaluation of MUP and producing the review report. You can read more about the evaluation plan below.

The review report will consider the impact of MUP on alcohol producers and license holders and the impact on the licensing objectives set in the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005

  • protecting and improving public health
  • preventing crime and disorder
  • securing public safety
  • preventing public nuisance
  • protecting children and young people from harm.

We will consult with representatives of alcohol producers and license holders, health, crime prevention, education, social work, and those working with children and young people in preparing the report.

The MUP legislation has been subject to a legal challenge led by the Scotch Whisky Association in partnership with European wine and spirits producers. The judicial process is now nearing its close, with an appeal to the UK Supreme Court being heard summer 2017. While the outcome cannot be presumed, in order that we are able to deliver a full and robust evaluation as required by the legislation, we have developed a proposed portfolio of studies with which to assess the impact of MUP. Some of these studies need to collect baseline data so we need to commission the studies in advance of the final decision in order to collect the necessary data before any implementation of MUP. These studies will cease should the Court rule against MUP later in 2017.

Evaluation plan

The evaluation plan for MUP contains a number of studies. Some of these studies will be commissioned and some we will progress. Two studies have been commissioned to date, through open procurement processes, in order to establish the necessary baseline data.  Firstly, the University of Sheffield is leading a study on the impact on the heaviest drinkers. Secondly, we are in the process of commissioning an observational study of small retailers, and we expect to be appointing the contract early summer 2017.

The current proposed portfolio includes studies to assess the following

  • compliance
  • availability of alcohol under 50ppu
  • alcohol consumption
  • harm
  • attitudes
  • economic impact on the alcohol industry
  • household expenditure
  • substitution to other sources of alcohol or illegal drugs
  • consultation with stakeholders.


You can view a presentation with further information about plans to evaluate MUP.


The MESAS MUP evaluation portfolio is overseen by the MESAS Governance Board, with academic and strategic delivery partner input. This group was first established in 2013, was put on hold during the legal process and has now been resurrected. Evaluation Advisory Groups are being established to oversee the component studies.

We encourage and support researchers to apply for grant funding to answer other important questions and as funding is confirmed we will provide details on how these studies will complement the MESAS portfolio.  

You can view the membership and terms of reference for the Governance Board. Details on the Evaluation Advisory Groups will be added to this page as and when they are agreed.

You can contact us to find out more about the evaluation plan.