Supreme Court gives go-ahead to minimum alcohol pricing

Sergio Conner
November 18, 2017

Scotland will become the first country in the world to have a minimum pricing for alcohol, if the rule is implemented.

And that, according to Hospitality Ulster, would equate to a modest rise of just £4.70 a year for moderate drinkers in Northern Ireland, but would hit hard at the cohort of problem drinkers (it is claimed that 6 per cent of drinkers in Northern Ireland consume 44 per cent of the region's alcohol).

"The ruling by the UK Supreme Court clears the way for Scotland to introduce price controls on cheap alcohol to tackle problem drinking", he said. "The price of a pint in the pub won't change but the price of strong white ciders and own brand spirits that are mainly bought by dependent drinkers will rise markedly", said Alcohol Focus Scotland, a charity.

"Minimum unit pricing is effective because it targets the kind of drinking most likely to lead to the greatest harm".

As a result, four 440 ml cans of 5 percent strength lager would cost at least 4.40 pounds, a 12 percent alcohol bottle of wine would cost at least 4.50 pounds, and a 70 cls bottle of whisky could not be sold for less than 14 pounds.

Academic studies have shown that setting a minimum cost at 50p per unit of alcohol would save up to 50,000 people from illness in a decade.

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"However, despite the fact that there has been widespread support across all the Northern Ireland political parties in the past, the lack of a devolved government and the fact that Westminster is unlikely to introduce a minimum unit price, means it could be some time before Northern Ireland follows suit".

"In a ruling of global significance, the UK Supreme Court has unanimously backed our pioneering and life-saving alcohol pricing policy".

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

"As part of a package of measures MUP now has the potential to reduce the number of alcohol related deaths and to lessen alcohol related harm in Scotland which impacts on not only individuals but also their families and communities", said its president, Prof Derek Bell.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) had launched a legal challenge against the proposal, arguing minimum pricing breached European Union and global trade law as it interfered with free trade. It said it accepted the ruling, however.

On average, alcohol misuse causes about 670 Scottish hospital admissions and 24 deaths a week, nearly 1.5 times higher than in the early 1980s.

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