UK Supreme Court dismisses appeal against minimum pricing for alcohol in Scotland

Marie Harrington
November 16, 2017

Representing the SWA at a July hearing in London, Aidan O'Neill QC told the justices: "We point out that there are a whole number of ways in which pricing can legitimately be used in accordance with European Union law to achieve those aims".

'This has been a long road - and no doubt the policy will continue to have its critics - but it is a bold and necessary move to improve public health'.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who devised the plan in 2009 when she was health minister, said she was "absolutely delighted".

Karen Betts, SWA chief executive, said: "We accept the Supreme Court's ruling on MUP of alcohol in Scotland".

"We look forward to seeing whether or not minimum pricing can make any impact on Scotland's complex and damaging relationship with alcohol", Mr. Briggs said.

The Scottish government has committed to a review of the policy after five years while a "sunset" provision, included in the legislation, means that it will expire after six years unless renewed by a ministerial decision which receives the positive approval of the Scottish parliament.

"Today's UK Supreme Court decision will have an immediate and lasting impact on public health policy in Scotland".

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"We will now look to the Scottish and United Kingdom 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, and to argue for fair competition on our behalf", said Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scottish Whisky Association. "In a ruling of global significance, the UK Supreme Court has unanimously backed our pioneering and life-saving alcohol pricing policy".

During a hearing in July, the judges heard argument from the organisation that minimum unit pricing (MUP) is "disproportionate" and illegal under European law.

It ends a five-year legal struggle over the Scottish Government's plan to introduce a 50p minimum unit price for grog.

"From a licensing perspective, when the regime is brought into effect, an additional condition will be inserted into all licences, both on and off sale, that an alcohol product must not be sold at a price below the statutorily determined minimum price per unit of alcohol", she said.

A UK Government spokeswoman said: "We have noted the ruling of the UK Supreme Court in favour of the Scottish Government".

Figures also show on average, alcohol misuse causes about 670 hospital admissions and 24 deaths a week and it costs Scotland £3.6billion each year, or £900 for every adult.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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