SNP wins alcohol minimum price court battle

A proposed 50p per unit price will 'reduce consumption', according to Court of Session judges. Picture: John Devlin
A proposed 50p per unit price will 'reduce consumption', according to Court of Session judges. Picture: John Devlin
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The Scottish Government has won its legal battle to introduce alcohol minimum pricing in Scotland after the Court of Session today kicked out an objection by the drinks industry.

Judges at the Court of Session in Edinburgh today found that the measure, which is aimed at targeting cheap alcohol and lagers, protects "life and health" in a way that other measures cannot.

They found that the proposed 50p per unit will "reduce consumption amongst harmful and hazardous drinkers" whose health is affected most by the consumption of cheap alcohol.

"The benefits of this are well documented," its judgement states..

"It is reasonable to conclude that alternative measures, including increases in taxation, are not capable of protecting life and health as effectively as minimum pricing, while being less restrictive of trade."

The legal challenge had been brought by Scotch Whisky Association and wine makers under European law and comes after advice was sought on the issue from EU courts.

The 50p per unit proposed by ministers would mean a bottle of spirits would cost at least £14 and cheap, strong cider could double in price.

The Scottish government, health professionals, police, alcohol charities and some members of the drinks industry believe minimum pricing would help address Scotland's "unhealthy relationship with drink".

The plans were backed the Scottish Parliament four years ago but have been mired in legal wrangling since then.

David Frost, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said the industry may now appeal the decision to the Supreme Court in London.

He said: "We regret the Court of Session's ruling in favour of the Scottish Government on minimum unit pricing (MUP). We continue to believe that MUP is a restriction on trade and that there are more effective ways of tackling alcohol misuse. However, we of course remain committed to working with all partners to address this problem so that the long-term trend of declining alcohol-related harm in Scotland continues.

“We will study the details of the judgement and consult our members before deciding on next steps, including any possible appeal to the UK Supreme Court.”

But doctors’ leaders have welcomed the judgement

BMA Scotland Dr Peter Bennie said: "Today’s verdict will be warmly welcomed by health campaigners and everyone who recognises that action is needed to improve Scotland’s damaging relationship with alcohol.

“Every year that has been lost to the alcohol industry’s delaying tactics has brought with it a human cost in lives lost and health damaged. The alcohol industry needs to accept today’s judgement and stop attempting to put their own agenda ahead of the public interest.

“Today’s verdict must mark an end to the delays and minimum unit pricing must now be implemented as a matter of urgency.”