The Sheffield Alcohol Research Group has today (20 September 2023) published a major new report on the impact of alcohol pricing policies, alcohol consumption and harm in Scotland.

This report, which was commissioned by Scottish Government, uses the Sheffield Tobacco and Alcohol Policy Model to appraise the impact of:

  • raising or lowering the current Minimum Unit Pricing threshold, or removing MUP entirely
  • changes to alcohol taxation, including the reforms introduced by the UK Government in August
  • changes to drinking behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic and how these might affect harms in the longer-term
  • recent high levels of inflation on the effectiveness of Minimum Unit Pricing

Findings in brief

The modelling finds that if alcohol prices, consumption and harms in Scotland were still at similar levels to 2019, increasing the MUP level would lead to greater health benefits; while reducing it, or removing the MUP altogether, would lead to a substantial increase in harms.

However, much has changed since 2019. New analysis within the report of drinking during the COVID-19 pandemic estimates that heavier drinkers increased their drinking in 2020 and even under the most optimistic assumptions about how quickly this might return to pre-pandemic levels (if at all), we estimate this will lead to a marked increase in alcohol harms.

The report also estimates the impact of high inflation, which has eroded the real-terms value of the 50p MUP level, and finds that alcohol consumption is likely to have increased as a result. We also look at the potential future impact of alternative approaches to linking the MUP level to inflation in the future.

Overall the report highlights that a combination of high inflation and the long-term effects of the pandemic on drinking behaviour are likely to lead to increases in alcohol-related harm that will cancel out some of the beneficial impacts of MUP.


Download the full report ‘New modelling of alcohol pricing policies, alcohol consumption and harm in Scotland’. A summary of the key findings of the report is also available.

A brief overview of the key differences between the models used for this report and our previous 2016 report on the potential impact of MUP in Scotland is provided in the technical notes. Further technical information is also available on the STAPM website.