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Supreme Court clears path for 50p-per-unit minimum pricing in Scotland

Published:  15 November, 2017

Scotland is set to become the first country to introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP) on alcohol after the UK Supreme Court rejected a challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

The landmark ruling, made this morning, has given the green light for the Scottish Government to implement its plans for a 50p per unit MUP.

The Judgment said:  “Minimum pricing is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.”

The Scottish Parliament passed the Alcohol Minimum Pricing Bill in May 2012 but the SWA has been fighting the move since lodging a petition for a judicial review. The SWA has claimed that the legislation broke European law.

The controversial decision comes as public health minister Rebecca Evans presented a bill at the Welsh Assembly last month.  It would enable a minimum price to be set in Wales and make it an offence for alcohol to be sold or supplied below that price. 

Karen Betts, SWA chief executive, said: “We accept the Supreme Court’s ruling on MUP of alcohol in Scotland. Looking ahead, the scotch whisky industry will continue to work in partnership with the government and the voluntary sector to promote responsible drinking and to tackle alcohol-related harm.”

However, she also said that the trade association would now be looking to the Scottish and UK Governments to support the industry against the “negative effects” of the legislation.

She added that there was a fear that trade barriers would be raised in overseas markets that discriminate against Scotch Whisky as a consequence of minimum pricing.  SWA wants the Government to argue for fair competition on behalf of the industry.  

“This is vital in order that the jobs and investment the industry provides in Scotland are not damaged. At home, we hope to see an objective assessment of the impact of MUP,” she said.

Scottish spokesperson for consumer group Drinkers' Voice, Kenny Alexander, said:

“The poor, the young and the moderate majority are being made to pay the price for the excessive drinking habits of a few middle aged and middle class drinkers.  It won’t be the ideologically driven Rioja drinking medics and academics who have campaigned for this measure that will feel the pinch but the average man and women that enjoys the simple pleasure of a drink at a price they can afford.

“As a Scotsman, I feel that this decision which will inevitably drive up the cost of Whisky is an attack on our culture and our heritage.'