The purpose of the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 is to impose a minimum price for all alcohol sold on licensed premises.

The Scottish Whisky Association has been challenging the legislation since 2012, citing restriction on trade, and interference with free trade and open border regulations, and that there are more effective ways of tackling alcohol misuse. This challenge received final consideration by the Supreme Court, which issued its judgment on 15 November 2017 in favour of the Scottish minsters, opening the way for Scotland to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol, the first country in the world to do so. The legislation is expected to come into force on 1 May 2018.

When that happens, a unit of alcohol may not be sold for less than the minimum unit price and this will be added as a mandatory condition to all premises licences.

  • The minimum unit price proposed is 50p. 
  • A “unit” is 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol.
  • The number of units in a drink is based on the size of the drink and its alcohol strength.
  • “Alcohol by volume”, or ABV, means the drink’s alcohol content, i.e. the amount of pure alcohol as a percentage of the total volume of liquid in the drink.

The MUP is to be calculated on the basis of the minimum unit price x the strength of the alcohol (ABV) x the volume of the product (litres):
MUP x S x V x 100.

So, for example:

  • A 750ml bottle of wine with 13.5% ABV (10.125 units) – applying the formula, the minimum price will be £5.06;
  • A 3 litre bottle of cider with 7.5% ABV (22.5 units) – minimum price £11.25; and
  • A 700ml bottle of whisky with 40% ABV (28 units) – minimum price £14.

It is likely to have the most noticeable effect on drinks with high alcohol content (e.g. cheap cider) and cheaper spirits.

The MUP provisions expire on the sixth anniversary of them coming into force, unless the Government makes an order (after the fifth anniversary but before the sixth) to keep the provisions in force.