GettyImages_Shoplifting wine_Credit vchal

Critics of the policy say it will lead to an increase in crime such as shoplifting

The SNP-Green coalition government is to increase the minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol in Scotland from 50p to 65p.

The new rate will take effect, subject to parliamentary approval, from 30 September. The plans will be put before the Scottish parliament on 19 February.

It means the cheapest price a bottle of 12.5% abv wine can be sold for in Scotland will increase to £6.09. The minimum price of a 500ml bottle of 4% abv lager, meanwhile, will rise to £1.30.

A bottle of 40% abv whisky will no longer be able to be sold for less than £18.20.

Scotland, which was the first country in the world to introduce a MUP for alcohol, has seen a fall in “alcohol-related health inequalities” since the rate was introduced in 2018, according to a Public Health Scotland study published in June 2023.

The study showed that – based on comparisons with England – there were an estimated 13.4% fewer deaths related to alcohol, and 4.1% fewer hospitalisations, than would have happened without the policy in place.

Scotland’s deputy first minister Shona Robison said the increase was necessary due to inflation and the need to do more to tackle alcohol-related harm.

“Our world-leading minimum unit pricing policy has saved hundreds of lives, likely averted hundreds of alcohol-attributable hospital admissions and contributed to reducing health inequalities,” she said. “Despite this progress, deaths caused specifically by alcohol rose last year – and my sympathy goes out to all those who have lost a loved one.”

Robison said the proposals struck a “reasonable balance between public health benefits and any effects on the alcoholic drinks market and impact on consumers”.

“Evidence suggests there has not been a significant impact on business and industry as a whole,” she added.

Critics, however, have said MUP was failing to help dependent drinkers, and could cause an increase in crime.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the policy “simply punishes responsible drinkers”.

“As a practising GP, I am well aware of the plight of alcoholism in Scotland,” he said. “However, it is clear that MUP is not reducing alcohol-related deaths as the SNP are claiming.

“What is perhaps most concerning is the report from Public Health Scotland that highlighted that problem drinkers are choosing to skip meals in order to buy alcohol.

“I am deeply concerned that the deputy first minister did not address my concerns on the failure of MUP to reduce alcohol-related deaths and help dependent drinkers.”

The national vice president of the Federation of Independent Retailers Mo Razzaq, meanwhile, claimed dependent drinkers would turn to crime if they couldn’t afford the new MUP.

“It is not going to tackle the issue of alcohol consumption,” he said. “Anyone with alcohol abuse issues will steal the product if they cannot afford it, as it is an addiction.”