Minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Scotland

Last updated: 14 March 2018

A minimum unit price for alcohol will start on 1 May 2018. The Scottish Government has proposed a price per unit of 50p to the Scottish Parliament.

If the Parliament agrees, from 1 May 2018 all alcoholic drinks must cost at least 50p per unit. Anyone with a licence to sell alcohol will not be allowed to sell it cheaper than this.

This covers both:

  • retailers that sell alcohol for drinking off the premises (like newsagents and supermarkets)
  • places that sell alcohol for drinking on the premises (like pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants)

More information on why the Scottish Government has introduced minimum unit pricing can be found here.

Information for customers

If you're a customer buying alcohol, you won't have to do anything different when minimum unit pricing starts.

Many alcohol products already cost more than 50p a unit, so you may find that the drinks you buy at bars, restaurants and shops will cost the same as they did before.

However, some cheaper drinks with high alcohol content may become more expensive.

It's recommended that you shouldn't regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week.

Information for retailers

You will need to follow the new minimum unit price on alcohol if you sell alcohol and hold either a premises licence or an occasional licence.

You have to make sure that none of the alcohol you sell from 1 May 2018 costs less than 50p per unit.

There will be no 'period of grace' allowed for carrying out minimum unit pricing – you must be selling alcohol at the right price on 1 May 2018 with no exceptions.

Wholesalers don't need to comply with minimum unit pricing if they only carry out trade-to-trade business. Guidance for wholesalers is being drafted by the Scottish Wholesale Association, and will be available here once it's published.


The people responsible for making sure the minimum unit price is followed are:

  • the premises licence holder
  • premises managers
  • staff working on the licensed premises

If the minimum unit price isn't followed this could lead to a review of the premises, and its licence could be taken away.

How to calculate the minimum unit price of a product

Every drink will have a minimum price based on the amount of pure alcohol it contains.

If you're selling alcohol and you don't know the new minimum price of a product, you can calculate it as:

The price per unit (£0.50) x the strength of alcohol (ABV) x the volume in litres

Here are some examples:

  • a 700ml bottle of spirits at 37.5% ABV must cost at least £13.13 (£0.50 x 37.5 x 0.7)
  • a 500ml super strength can of beer at 9% ABV must cost at least £2.25 (£0.50 x 9 x 0.5)
  • a 2 litre bottle of strong cider at 6% ABV must cost at least £6.00 (£0.50 x 6 x 2)

Most alcohol products show the number of units on the label. Don't use this when calculating the minimum price – it's been rounded, which means you might end up with a price lower than the minimum. Use the formula above instead to make sure you get an accurate price.

Rounding up

If you do a calculation and the result isn't a whole number of pennies, you must round it up to the nearest whole number – if you round it down, the price will be lower than the minimum.

For example, a standard 750ml bottle of wine with an ABV of 12.5% would have a minimum unit price of £4.68 ¾ (£0.50 x 12.5 x 0.75). In this case, you must charge at least £4.69.


Minimum unit pricing will be enforced by Licensing Standards Officers (LSOs), who are employed by local authorities.

LSOs can be contacted through your local authority. They can explain what minimum unit pricing will mean for your business, and can help give guidance.

You will probably be contacted by your local LSO before or shortly after the minimum unit pricing rule begins. This might be an inspection visit. The LSO will expect to see clear pricing for every alcoholic product being sold, and these prices should be at or above the minimum unit price.

If an LSO finds you're selling a product for less than the minimum unit price, they have the power to issue you or the licence holder with a notice.

This will usually tell you to either change the price of a certain product or stop selling it. If you ignore this notice, the LSO can ask the Licensing Board to review your licence.

Business checklist

To make sure alcohol products aren't being sold at less than the minimum unit price, businesses can follow these steps:

  • calculate the minimum price of a product
  • update the central pricing systems (if needed) to make sure the new price is shown when the barcode scans
  • change the price on any price tags and pricing displays on shop shelves
  • change the price on menus
  • change the price on promotional posters, flyers and other materials
  • change the price on websites

Further information

If you have more questions about minimum unit pricing for alcohol, contact for more information.