Scotland to become first country with minimum price for alcohol sales

Minimum alcohol pricing set to come into force in Scotland

The intention is to target problem drinkers by hitting the price of strong alcohol that is sold at low prices, and is unlikely to affect pubs.

After a five-year legal battle against the plans led by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), the court has ruled that minimum pricing is legal under European Union law on health grounds.

'Minimum alcohol pricing is a policy that clobbers the poor and exempts the rich.

The decision means that Scots could see the price of wines, beers and spirits sold in off-licences and other shops increase as early as next spring.

The seven Supreme Court justices unanimously dismissed the appeal brought by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and other drinks manufacturers arguing the MUP policy is "disproportionate" and illegal under European law. "The champagne at their Christmas parties will not be affected".

"We will now look to the Scottish and UK Governments to support the industry against the negative effects of trade barriers being raised in overseas markets that discriminate against scotch whisky as a outcome of minimum pricing", SWA's Chief Executive Karen Betts said in a statement.

Robison said: "This is a historic and far-reaching judgment and a landmark moment in our ambition to turn around Scotland's troubled relationship with alcohol".

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"Alcohol is 60 percent more affordable in the United Kingdom than it was in 1980 and alcohol misuse costs Scotland £3.6 billion each year [US$4.73billion] - £900 for every adult [US$1184]". The legal arguments aside, the premise for Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) is flawed - based as it is on an untested forecast model that believes that the heaviest drinkers are very sensitive to price increases.

The move is a response by the Scottish Parliament to tackle the nation's level of drinking by raising the price of cheap, super-strength alcohol. With alcohol available for sale at just 18 pence a unit, that death toll remains unacceptably high.

Scottish health minister Shona Robison said: "Given the clear and proven link between consumption and harm, minimum pricing is the most effective and efficient way to tackle the cheap, high-strength alcohol that causes so much damage to so many families".

A small number of countries, including Canada and Russian Federation, and some states in the USA, have a form of minimum pricing, according to the Institute for Alcohol Studies.

He said Scotland now has more outlets selling alcohol than it has GP practices, and added: "The Scottish Government have been the torch bearers of progressive drug and alcohol policies worldwide. We'll be working with the Scottish Government and our customers over the coming months to support the successful introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing".

Alcohol misuse results in about 670 hospital admissions and 24 deaths a week - with the Scottish Government saying death rates are nearly 1.5 times higher now than they were in the early 1980s.

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