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Scotland set to lead world by setting minimum alcohol price

15 November 2017

It clears the way for Holyrood to bring in the policy more than five years after first passing legislation specifying a minimum price per unit of 50p, meaning a bottle of spirits would cost at least £14, and a bottle of wine around £4.50.

But Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: "We accept the Supreme Court's ruling on minimum unit pricing of alcohol in Scotland".

The decision to allow minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol in Scotland has been bailed a "massive victory" for health and democracy.

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.

" This policy will restrict the availability of cheap, high strength, alcohol which has been causing the most damage to communities across Scotland, without impacting moderate drinkers who can continue to enjoy a drink responsibly", he stated. "The champagne at their Christmas parties will not be affected".

The Scottish Parliament's MUP proposals, put forward in 2012 but placed on hold pending legal challenges, require Ministers to review the measure after five years.

The SWA, backed by the European drinks industry, had argued that minimum pricing breached EU and global trade law as it interfered with free trade and open borders regulations.

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

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Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, re-iterated today (15 November) that minimum pricing was "a necessary move to improve public health".

She added that she would make a statement to the Scottish Parliament shortly setting out the Government's next steps, which will include a more precise timetable.

Alcohol-related deaths in Scotland have risen 10 percent since 2015, and the government says Scotland's troubled relationship with alcohol is significantly worse than the rest of the United Kingdom, with 17 percent more alcohol sold per adult in Scotland than in England and Wales in 2016. Its drinking problem is far worse than the rest of the UK. With alcohol available for sale at just 18 pence a unit, that death toll remains unacceptably high.

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.

The Scottish Government argues the policy is needed as nearly a fifth more alcohol is sold per adult in Scotland than in England and Wales, while alcohol-related deaths have increased by 10 per cent over the past year.

Ministers said a 50p-per-unit minimum would help tackle Scotland's "unhealthy relationship with drink", with alcohol responsible for more than 1,000 deaths every year.

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.

Scotland set to lead world by setting minimum alcohol price