United Kingdom supreme court rules minimum alcohol pricing is legal

The Scotch whisky industry is worth £4bn to Scotland

Scottish ministers insist, however, that a 50-pence-per-unit minimum (65 cents) would help tackle the country's chronic "unhealthy relationship with drink" by raising the price of cheap, high-strength alcohol.

The UK Supreme Court has today ruled that minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol can proceed in Scotland, concluding a lengthy legal challenge from drinks trade groups.

SCOTLAND will become the first part of the United Kingdom to set a minimum price for alcohol in a bid to target problem drinking.

But Chris Snowdon, the head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said that while politicians and doctors would not be affected by minimum pricing, it would "clobber" poorer drinkers.

The policy was introduced to combat alcohol-related illness and crime. "The champagne at their Christmas parties will not be affected".

MSPs passed the legislation that will bring in minimum unit pricing back in 2012, with the implementation of the policy put on hold as a result of the legal action.

In a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court said: "Minimum pricing is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim".

SpiritsEUROPE regrets the UK Supreme Court ruling on MUP, which will distort competition by preventing efficient low-priced producers of alcoholic drinks in other Member States from using that competitive advantage against higher cost producers, without targeting those who drink at harmful levels.

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Image Alcohol prices in Scotland are set for an increase

And brewers C&C - who produce Tennent's Lager and Magners Cider - also welcomed the decision, saying: "It is the right move to make; a progressive step forward in tackling the problems of alcohol misuse in Scotland and we congratulate the Scottish Government on its perseverance".

The policy has been championed by Sturgeon since she was Scotland's health secretary, in an effort to combat the increasing number of deaths from alcohol-related diseases, and had been backed by Scottish judges in several hearings.

"In a ruling of global significance, the UK Supreme Court has unanimously backed our pioneering and life-saving alcohol pricing policy". With alcohol available for sale at just 18 pence a unit, that death toll remains unacceptably high.

"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", Scottish health minister Shona Robison said in a statement.

Some states in Canada operate variants of minimum unit pricing, while are other European Union countries, such as Ireland and Estonia, which are also considering the measure.

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".

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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