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The debate about a minimum price for alcohol has been prompted by concerns about high levels of drinking, its effect on public health and public order, and a widespread belief that most of the alcohol that contributes to drunken behaviour is irresponsibly priced and sold.

One policy option is to set a minimum price per unit of alcohol (MUP). Another is to ban the sale of alcohol below cost price (the level of alcohol duty plus VAT). 

Licensing policy in Scotland

Alcohol licensing is a devolved matter. The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Scotland Act 2012 paved the way for the introduction of MUP. The Scottish Whisky Association unsuccessfully challenged the legislation in the European and Scottish courts.

A minimum unit price of 50p per unit has been in place since 1 May 2018.

Licensing policy in England and Wales

A ban on selling alcohol below the level of alcohol duty plus VAT has been in place since 28 May 2014. This was introduced through the Licensing Act 2003 (Mandatory Conditions) Order 2014.

In March 2020, the Government said there were “no plans for the introduction of MUP in England” although it would continue to monitor the progress of MUP in Scotland and consider the evidence of its impact.

Public health policy in Wales 

The Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol)(Wales) Act 2018 enabled the introduction of MUP on public health grounds, an area within the Welsh Assembly’s legislative competence.

A minimum unit price of 50p was introduced from 2 March 2020.


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