The leader of the BMA in Scotland has warned that it will take time before the effect of legislation on alcohol pricing shapes the nation’s health.
Speaking on the first anniversary of MUP (minimum unit pricing) coming into law in Scotland, Lewis Morrison said the visual effects were already apparent but that it would take longer to see a clear change to people’s health.
The BMA was one of the strongest campaigners in favour of the move, which was implemented after years of legal challenge from the alcohol industry, and which resulted in a 50p per unit minimum price from 1 May last year.
Dr Morrison (pictured above) said the policy was still in its early stages. ‘As such it’s difficult to say just how much of an impact the 50p per unit minimum pricing has had over the past 12 months,’ he added.
‘The effects currently may be more visual than physical: if we look around us we don’t see cheap bottles of cider for sales in shops, or promotions of buy two get three free on beer and alcopops.
'There may be less evidence of binge drinking cheap, high-strength alcohol on our streets – far fewer three-litre bottles sticking out of litter or recycling bins. But in terms of official figures, it’s much harder to say at this stage just how effective the policy has been.’
Dr Morrison said that publication of the yearly report on alcohol sales in June would be the first meaningful analysis of the short-term effect MUP has had on the volume of units sold over the past 12 months.
But he cautioned: ‘I am not expecting anything groundbreaking to come out of this. I am a firm believer that MUP is a good thing, but it will not change Scotland’s problem with alcohol overnight – nor did the Scottish Government ever claim it would. We must be patient and appreciate that this is about long-term change, changing behaviours and improving lives.’
In a briefing published to mark the anniversary, Alcohol Focus Scotland said that MUP would be one of the most thoroughly evaluated policies ever to be implemented in Scotland.
It said that modelling by Sheffield University suggested that the policy would reduce hospital admissions and save lives, and would reduce consumption, particularly among the heaviest drinkers.
Dr Morrison expressed optimism. ‘Before this policy was introduced, on average 22 people in Scotland died from alcohol-related causes every week,’ he said.
‘We are by no means going to see huge results in this short period of time, but I am positive about what MUP will mean for the health of our future generations.’
Find out more about the BMA's work on alcohol misuse
Read more from Jennifer Trueland and follow on Twitter.