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The first analysis of off-trade alcohol sales over the full year following the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) shows the volume of pure alcohol sold per adult in Scotland fell by 3.6%.

Compared to the twelve months which preceded implementation of MUP in May 2018, the volume of pure alcohol sold per adult in the off-trade in Scotland decreased from 7.4 to 7.1 litres. In England & Wales – where MUP has not been implemented – the volume of pure alcohol sold in the off-trade during the same year increased from 6.3 to 6.5 litres. The combined effect of these changes saw the smallest difference in per adult off-trade sales between Scotland and England & Wales in the period between May 2011 and May 2019. In the post-MUP year in Scotland per adult sales of cider fell the most (down 18.6%), while sales of spirits fell by 3.8%, and sales of beer remained relatively stable (down 1.1%). Sales of cider, spirits and beer all increased in England & Wales over the same time period. Fortified wine was the only drink category in which per adult sales in Scotland increased post-MUP.

The findings published today confirm that there was a step change in the average price of alcohol in Scotland immediately following the implementation of MUP. The average price of off-trade alcohol in Scotland rose by 5 pence per unit (ppu) from 55ppu to 60ppu in May 2018 – a price increase not seen in England & Wales. The rise in Scotland was driven by an increase in the average sales price of beer, spirits and most markedly cider.

This report also found that trends in per adult alcohol sales in the North East and North West regions of England were similar to those in the rest of England & Wales. It is therefore unlikely that cross-border sales activity can explain the changes in per adult alcohol sales in Scotland and England & Wales respectively, in the year following the implementation of MUP.

Lucie Giles, Public Health Intelligence Advisor at NHS Health Scotland, said:

“This is the first time we have been able to analyse sales data covering the full year following the introduction of MUP, and it is encouraging that off-trade alcohol sales fell in Scotland following its implementation.

“Today’s findings show that the scale of change varies according to drink category. For example, per adult sales of cider saw the greatest decrease, and this was likely to be associated with cider having the greatest relative increase in average sales price, once MUP came into force.

“The analysis of per adult sales data in the North East and North West of England did not provide evidence of substantial cross-border purchasing. We will continue to examine a variety of data sources to ensure we understand cross-border activity as far as possible. 

“This analysis of alcohol sales and price in the off-trade is one of several in our evaluation portfolio that will examine the impact of MUP on the price of alcohol and population level alcohol consumption. Further studies looking at longer term, post-MUP data will report in due course”.