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The impact of raising the cost of cheap booze in Scotland

MSPs have voted to increase the minimum unit price of alcohol by 30%, bringing a bottle of whisky which now costs £14 to £18.20 in Scotland from September.

The impact of raising the cost of cheap booze in Scotland

Scotland became the first country in the world to set a minimum price (MUP) for alcohol in 2018. In the six years since, the price per unit of alcohol has been 50p. However, the law was set to be revisited in April this year, and MSPs have now voted to increase the minimum unit pricing in the country.

From September, the 50p MUP will be raised to 65p, a move designed to reflect rises in inflation. The new minimum was approved by the Scottish Parliament this week after receiving 88 votes in favour, with 28 against.

Minimum unit pricing is calculated using this formula: the price per unit (currently £0.50) x the strength of alcohol (ABV) x the volume in litres. The table below details the increase in cost for different forms of alcohol.

Type of alcohol Old price (MUP 50p) New price (MUP 65p)
Whisky (70cl, 40% ABV) £14 £18.20
Vodka (70cl, 37.5% ABV) £13.13 £17.06
Red wine (75cl, 12.5% ABV) £4.69 £6.09
Cider (1l, 5% ABV) £2.50 £3.25
Lager (500ml, 4% ABV) £1.00 £1.30

Independent retailers have mixed reaction to the increase in minimum unit pricing on alcohol.

Hussan Lal, president of the Federation of Independent Retailers (the Fed) in Scotland, says the organisation supports moves to prevent deaths from alcohol addiction. However, he insisted that MUP is not the correct solution.

Lal, who owns a convenience store in Paisley, said: “We are all for saving lives, but MUP is not the be all and end all. It has not worked, and simply increasing the price of alcohol will not deter heavy drinkers.”

He also raised concerns that the price increase will lead to an escalation in shoplifting, which the Fed says has risen to unprecedented levels in recent years.

However, not all independent retailers agree with the organisation president. Fed member Ferhan Ashiq, whose store is in Musselburgh, is supportive of the increase in MUP. He said: “As a retailer, I understand what the Scottish government wants to achieve and I back it. We need to play our part in this and I’m not opposed to it.”

The increase in MUP could also provide an opportunity for retailers to increase their bottom line. In a letter published in The National yesterday (18 April), one reader said that it would be cheaper to travel down to Newcastle to buy bottles of whisky from wholesaler Costco.

The member of the public, who wrote in to the paper to give his perspective, also argued that it would benefit the retailer’s bottom line. They said: “The strange thing is, when Costco are forced to charge £6 more per bottle in Scotland, that goes straight into their bottom line as extra profit.”

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