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).  Scottish Ministers' preferred minimum price is 50 pence per unit of alcohol (ppu).

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 an independent evaluation of MUP and producing the review report. You can read more about the evaluation plan below.

The evaluation will consider the impact of MUP on alcohol producers and licence holders and the impact on the licensing objectives set in the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, which are

  • securing public safety
  • preventing public nuisance
  • preventing crime and disorder
  • protecting and improving public health
  • 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 was subject to a legal challenge and implementation has been on hold during the legal process. In November 2017, the UK Supreme Court found MUP to be legal and it will come into force on 1st May 2018. Some studies that required bespoke baseline data collection have already started. We are now finalising the evaluation plan and putting the remaining studies into place. 

Evaluation plan

The evaluation plan for MUP contains a number of studies to assess the following

  • implementation and compliance
  • Price and product range
  • alcohol sales and consumption
  • harm - including
    • health
    • crime
    • public safety
    • public nuisance
    • harm to children
  • economic impact on the alcohol industry
  • expenditure on other goods
  • attitudes to MUP
  • substitution to other sources of alcohol or illegal drugs.

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

There are two overarching evaluation questions.

  • To what extent has implementing MUP in Scotland contributed to reducing alcohol-related health and social harms?
  • Are some (people and businesses) more affected (positively or negatively) than others?

We will complete some of the studies ourselves and others will be commissioned to external research bodies through open procurement processes. Two studies have been commissioned to date.  Firstly, the University of Sheffield is leading a study on the impact on the heaviest drinkers. Secondly, the University of Stirling are leading a study of small retailers.

We encourage and support researchers to apply for grant funding to answer other important questions that complement the planned studies. As funding is confirmed we will include information here. Two studies have received grant funding to date.

The University of Glasgow has been funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to provide evidence of the impact of MUP through three components

  • An audit of attendances and hazardous drinking in people attendees at emergency departments.
  • An audit of hazardous drinking, source of alcohol and illicit drug use in attendees at sexual health clinics.
  • Qualitative focus groups with young adult binge drinkers aged 18-24 years and heavy drinkers over the age of 30 years, and interviews with key informants, for example, those concerned with implementation.

Please contact sphsu-enquiries@glasgow.ac.uk for more information on this study.

The University of Glasgow has received a small grant from Alcohol Research UK for a study with heavy drinkers, or heavy drinkers who have recently stopped drinking, on stopping, switching or seeking treatment behaviour following the implementation of MUP

Please contact Mark.McCann@glasgow.ac.uk for further information on this study.


The MESAS MUP evaluation portfolio is overseen by the MESAS Governance Board, with academic and strategic delivery partner input. This group, 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.

You can view the membership and terms of reference for the Governance Board and Evaluation Advisory Groups below. Details on other 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 and the studies within it.