There are fears for the future of pubs north of the border after the Scottish government decided the increase the minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol.
The price will rise from 50p to 65p from 30th September. The move has been criticised by industry and consumer groups.
“The decision to press ahead with a significant increase to MUP is disappointing, especially during a cost-of-living crisis,” said Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the Scottish Beer and Pub Association.
“The vast majority of people consume alcohol responsibly, and this increase will put further pressure on strained household budgets.
“The evaluation also showed no substantial evidence of the policy working. The future introduction of a [deposit return scheme] will also interact with MUP, particularly lower-strength products such as beer, and likely distort consumer behaviour, which has not been considered.
“We strongly advise the Scottish government to reconsider the increase at this time and instead look towards targeted interventions which have a proven record in tackling alcohol misuse.”
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The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) believes that policies like MUP — and a cut in tax, specifically on pints served in pubs, which it is calling for ahead of the UK government’s Budget in March — can encourage people to drink in the regulated setting of the pub, instead of drinking cheaper supermarket alcohol at home.
But the campaign fears that increasing the rate of MUP won’t have an impact on its own to encourage pub-going and to safeguard the future of hundreds of community locals at risk of permanent closure due to crippling business rates and a possible return of Scottish government plans to ban alcohol advertising.
“That’s why we are calling on the Scottish government to bring forward an action plan to protect and promote pubs as a force for good in our society,” said CAMRA chairman Nik Antona, “and to recognise the mental health and wellbeing benefits of drinking responsibly in your local.
“CAMRA urgently wants to see a rethink on help for pubs with business rates, the closing of loopholes in the planning system that allow pubs to be demolished by developers without the need for planning permission, and a commitment not to cripple valued local pubs and independent breweries by bringing back draconian measures to ban alcohol advertising and sponsorship.”