Minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Scotland gets the green light from Supreme Court

The UK Supreme Court yesterday (November 16) ruled that Scotland can set a minimum price for alcohol, rejecting a challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

Legislation was approved by the Scottish Parliament five years ago but has been tied up in court challenges.

In a unanimous judgment, seven Supreme Court judges said the legislation did not breach European Union law. The judges ruled the measure was a ‘proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’.

Ministers said a 50p-per-unit minimum would help tackle Scotland’s ‘unhealthy relationship with drink’ by raising the price of cheap, high-strength alcohol.

The SWA had claimed the move was a ‘restriction on trade’ and there were ‘more effective ways of tackling alcohol misuse’.

After the Supreme Court verdict, ministers are expected to make Scotland the first country in the world to establish a minimum price per unit of alcohol, possibly early next year.

The SWA said it accepted the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The Scottish government’s aim is to reduce the amount that problem drinkers consume by raising the price of the strongest, cheapest alcohol.

Last year, Alcohol Focus Scotland claimed the maximum recommended weekly intake of alcohol (14 units) could be bought for just £2.52. It said superstrength cider and own-brand vodka and whisky could be purchased for as little as 18p per unit of alcohol.

The 50p-per-unit minimum outlined by the legislation would raise the price of the cheapest bottle of red wine (9.4 units of alcohol) to £4.69, a four-pack of 500ml cans of 4% lager (8 units) would cost at least £4 and a 70cl bottle of whisky (28 units of alcohol) could not be sold for less than £14.

Normal strength cider (5% ABV) would cost at least £2.50 a litre but a super-strength version (7.5% ABV) would have to cost a minimum of £3.75 for a litre.

We’ll have more on this in the December issue of Wholesale News.

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