Minimum alcohol pricing had little impact on drink-related crime, study finds

·3-min read

Minimum pricing for alcohol had little impact on drink-related crime following its introduction in Scotland, a study has found.

Researchers looked at trends in alcohol-related crime, disorder and public nuisance after minimum unit pricing (MUP) was introduced in May 2018.

These issues were declining before MUP and its introduction had no statistically significant impact on the trajectory, they found.

The study was carried out by Manchester Metropolitan University, which analysed Police Scotland data.

MUP set a base price of 50p per unit of alcohol.

Minimum alcohol pricing
Alcohol now has a minimum price of 50p per unit (Ian West/PA)

Public Heath Scotland (PHS) has commissioned a number of other studies into the impact of MUP.

Earlier this year, a report found that people with alcohol dependencies consumed less cheap drink after the policy was introduced.

Another study for the Lancet Public Health journal found alcohol sales fell by nearly 8% after MUP began.

Jon Bannister, professor of criminology at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “Whilst off-trade alcohol sales in Scotland fell following the introduction of minimum unit pricing, this study finds that reduction in sales had minimal impact on the levels of alcohol-related crime, disorder and public nuisance reported in Scotland.

“Drug-related crime appears to have been similarly unaffected, with no increase seen around the introduction of MUP.

“On the whole, the limited discernible impact of MUP on alcohol-related crime, disorder and public nuisance suggests that the reduction in off-trade alcohol sales that followed implementation is below that required to deliver a reduction in crime.

“Or, if crime did reduce, it has done so at a scale that the evaluation could not identify.”

Minimum alcohol pricing
A number of studies are looking at the impact of MUP (Jane Barlow/PA)

Dr Karl Ferguson, an intelligence adviser at Public Health Scotland, said: “Understanding the impact of MUP on social harms including crime and public safety is an important aspect of the overall evaluation.

“The findings of this research are in line with previous Public Health Scotland studies which reported limited evidence of increased theft or illicit substance use as a result of MUP.

“These studies included research into how MUP affected small retailers, people drinking at harmful levels, and children and young people.”

A number of further studies into the impact of MUP are under way.

These will include studies on ambulance call-outs, hospital admissions and deaths, and the relationship between alcohol and illicit substance use.

In response to the latest report, Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, called for the 50p price base to be raised.

She said: “It is disappointing that the study found limited impact on alcohol-related crimes as a result of MUP, especially given that MUP has been found to have reduced off-sales consumption in Scotland and early indications suggest it has also saved lives.

“However, it is well recognised that the effects of a 50p per unit minimum price will have been eroded by inflation since the policy was first approved by the Scottish Parliament in 2012.

“In order to ensure we get the most out of minimum unit pricing, Alcohol Focus Scotland believes the Scottish Government should increase the minimum price to at least 65p per unit.”

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