Conservatives report SNP over ‘misleading’ booze price claims 

By Lucy Ashton

Humza Yousaf and Public Health Scotland have been reported to the UK Statistics Authority, accused of “grossly misleading” the public about the health benefits of minimum unit pricing for alcohol.

Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane has written to Sir Robert Chote, chair of the body, seeking a review of PHS’s “final report” into Minimum Unit Price published last week.

At First Minister’s Questions last week, Humza Yousaf claimed the higher price is “is quite literally saving lives”.

First Minister Humza Yousaf, Buckfast wine and Dr Sandesh Gulhane.

It follows a government press release which claimed MUP “has saved lives, reduced hospital admissions and had a positive impact on health”.

This conclusion was allegedly drawn from “robust, independent evaluation and the best-available, wide-ranging evidence drawing on 40 independent research publications”.

However, closer analysis of the bibliography reveals 32 of the studies mentioned are silent on the health outcomes of MUP.

Seven of the studies into health outcomes reached negative or inconclusive verdicts on it, including one study that was deemed low quality by the Scottish Government.

Only a single study concluded deaths “might have” been averted “under the counterfactual situation that MUP legislation was not enacted in Scotland”.

It was led by an adviser to PHS, Grant Wyper, and funded by PHS, casting doubt on the Scottish Government’s claim its conclusions were drawn from “robust, independent… wide ranging evidence”.

Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP said: “I feel compelled to write to the UK Statistics Authority because this report is grossly misleading.

“SNP ministers view MUP as the panacea in tackling problem drinking but none of the studies to date have backed up that theory – and neither does this one, despite their desperate spinning.

“The SNP have form for making dubious claims, whether it’s comparing NHS performance north and south of the border or peddling falsehoods about Scotland’s wind power capacity.

“But this is too important a subject for data to be misrepresented to suit a political narrative.

“Alcohol deaths in Scotland are at their highest level since 2008 on the SNP’s watch – with 1,245 people losing their lives in 2021 – and, if we’re to get on top of this problem, we need unvarnished facts.

“At best the jury is still out on whether MUP is effective; indeed, there is evidence to show it’s counterproductive as it leads some problem drinkers to forego food.” 

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