Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol has been implemented effectively, with compliance high amongst licensed premises in Scotland. These are the key findings of the first study from the MUP evaluation, published today by NHS Health Scotland.

Minimum Unit Pricing came into force on 1st May 2018 and requires all licensed premises in Scotland to set a floor price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol, below which alcohol cannot be sold. Establishing that licence holders are complying with the legislation is an important first step in assessing the impact of MUP.

This first study assessed how well MUP has been complied with through the experiences of inspection and enforcement practitioners, who are responsible for ensuring licensing conditions (including MUP) are met. Licensing Standards Officers, Trading Standards Officers and police officers with a licensing remit were interviewed about their experience of implementation and compliance issues, and their perception of whether there had been any changes in the unlicensed sale of alcohol.

Owing to the higher prices typically found in the on-trade (pubs, clubs and restaurants), practitioners confirmed that these businesses had been largely unaffected by the implementation of MUP. As a result, practitioners focused on the off-trade (convenience stores and supermarkets), and reported licensed premises were largely compliant with MUP legislation. Where examples of non-compliance were identified, all issues were considered minor and swiftly resolved. 

Inspection and enforcement practitioners did not report any known increase in illegal and unlicensed alcohol activity related to the introduction of MUP. 

Elinor Dickie, Public Health Intelligence Adviser at NHS Health Scotland and author of the report, said:

“Minimum Unit Pricing has the potential to improve Scotland’s relationship with alcohol and reduce the harm it causes. But MUP in the form we have it in Scotland hasn’t been put it in place anywhere before. That’s why it’s so important to gather evidence of its impact through a robust and comprehensive evaluation.

“This study represents a crucial foundation for the rest of our evaluation. Successful implementation is an important first step for any policy to achieve its intended outcome. Having now established that MUP was well implemented and compliance is high, we can be confident in assessing findings from other studies in the evaluation portfolio on the extent to which MUP has affected other outcomes”.

Douglas Frood, National Licensing Standards Officers Network Chair, said:

“Following the introduction of MUP, the study shows Licensing Standards Officers played an important role in supporting businesses to comply with the legislation. We would like to recognise their professionalism in incorporating these additional checks into their inspection duties, as part of the implementation of MUP.

"Practitioners felt the trade were receptive to the new condition, and highlighted both the level of engagement amongst licence holders and their willingness to comply with the legislation. The finding that no known increase in illegal and unlicensed alcohol activity related to the introduction of MUP was reported is also to be welcomed”.