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Scotch admits defeat on minimum pricing

15 November 2017

The price of beer, wine and spirits is set to soar in Scotland as it becomes the first country in the world to impose a minimum price for alcohol.

Health secretary Shona Robison welcomed the decision and confirmed she intends to make a statement to Parliament shortly, setting out next steps.

"This is a historic and far-reaching judgment and a landmark moment in our ambition to turn around Scotland's troubled relationship with alcohol", said Robison.

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.

Earlier this year the Alcohol Health Alliance found the cheapest drink to be available at just 16p per unit in the UK.

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

Ministers want to set a minimum alcohol price of 50p per unit, claiming it will help to curtail alcohol-related deaths by clamping down on high-strength brands.

"This is not only counter to common sense, it is not the view of frontline professionals supporting those in crisis".

The Royal College of Psychiatrists also gave its backing, with chair of the Faculty of Addictions Psychiatry in Scotland Dr Ahmed Khan stating: "Scotland is the highest consumer of alcohol in the United Kingdom and, subsequently, has the highest mortality rates, including a fivefold rise in liver disease in the last decade, especially amongst women".

Pro-alcohol lobbying group Drinkers" Voice slammed the ruling, with Scottish spokesperson Kenny Alexander saying: "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.

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

He said: "The Supreme Court's decision today is disappointing, but we should be thankful that the legal action has delayed the implementation of this pernicious policy by five years, thereby saving Scottish drinkers hundreds of millions of pounds".

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who first pitched a minimum price of 45p per unit in September 2010, said she was "absolutely delighted" with the court's decision.

Scottish ministers have prepared a draft order specifying a minimum price per unit of 50p, but neither the 2012 Act nor the order have been brought into force because of the legal proceedings.

"Scotland has been leading the way on minimum unit pricing but other countries, such as Ireland and Wales, are now also actively pursuing legislation".

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Scotch admits defeat on minimum pricing