Scotland is set to become the first country in the world to set a minimum price for alcohol in an effort to improve public health after the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) lost an appeal against the plan at the UK’s highest court.
The SWA, with other sections of the drinks industry, contended that the move to impose a 50p minimum price per unit for alcohol would be “disproportionate” and illegal under European law.
However judges at the Supreme Court unanimously backed the Scottish Government, ruling that the plan passed by MSPs five years ago but held up in legal battles could now go ahead.
Ministers have promised to move as quickly as possible, and it is believed the legislation could come into force early next year.
The proposal is backed by health professionals and would make the price of a bottle of spirits at least £14, the cheapest bottle of wine £4.69, and a four-pack of 500ml cans of lager at least £4.
ALMR Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “Any measures that seek to promote healthier attitudes towards alcohol are to be welcomed, although we remain unconvinced that a minimum unit price will have the effect on problematic consumption the Scottish Government is seeking.
“The priority now is for the sector to work with the Scottish Government to implement the measure in a way that does not have a detrimental effect on eating and drinking out venues that are vital to Scotland’s economy.”
Tom Stainer, CAMRA’s Head of Communication says:
“While we recognise the Supreme Court decision, CAMRA does not support minimum pricing as we believe that it penalises moderate and responsible drinkers while doing little to support those who have issues with alcohol abuse. We think governments would achieve more by focussing on reducing beer duty and business rates to help pubs survive and continue to provide a vital community service.”
The British Liver Trust welcomes today’s judgement that minimum unit pricing is legal and can be implemented in Scotland.
Judi Rhys, Chief Executive, British Liver Trust commented “The MUP ruling for Scotland is a welcome first step to help stem the rise in deaths from alcohol related liver disease. There has been 400% increase of liver disease over the last 40 years and at the same time alcohol has become less expensive and more easily available. This ruling will impact the most harmful drinkers as MUP affects the cheapest booze and the heaviest drinkers. We look forward to MUP being adopted across the rest of the UK.”
The British Liver Trust believes that this decision has implications far beyond Scotland. England, Wales and Northern Ireland are now clear to progress plans for minium unit pricing.