A study published today by Public Health Scotland (PHS) indicates that Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) had minimal impact on alcohol-related crime in Scotland following its introduction in May 2018.

Alcohol-related crime, disorder and public nuisance in Scotland were found to be going down prior to MUP, but there was no statistically significant change after its introduction. This was also true of non-alcohol-related crimes such as drug-related crime. 

Researchers from the Manchester Metropolitan University Crime & Well-Being Big Data Centre analysed Police Scotland data, to understand the effect of MUP on alcohol-related crime, disorder and public nuisance, non-alcohol-related crime and drug-related crime. The data covered the period from January 2015 to January 2020, including the 21 months after MUP was implemented. Additional data provided by Greater Manchester Police allowed the researchers to compare alcohol-related crime and disorder in Greater Glasgow (with MUP in place) and Greater Manchester (without MUP).  

Limited changes were observed across types of crime, across local authority areas in Scotland, and in the relationship between important socio-economic characteristics and alcohol-related crime and disorder.

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”. 

Dr Karl Ferguson, Public Health Intelligence Adviser at PHS, 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 will offer additional insights into the impact of MUP on crime as a key social harm. These will include studies on Ambulance Call-outs, Hospital Admissions and Deaths, and the relationship between minimum pricing for alcohol and illicit substance use.  

For more information, read the Evaluation of the impact of alcohol MUP on crime and disorder, public safety and public nuisance briefing paper and full report.

Last updated: 06 October 2022