Netizen 24 GBR: Supreme Court backs Scottish minimum alcohol pricing

By On November 15, 2017

Supreme Court backs Scottish minimum alcohol pricing

Supreme Court backs Scottish minimum alcohol pricing

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The UK Supreme Court has ruled that Scotland can set a minimum price for alcohol, rejecting a challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

Legislation was approved by the Scottish Parliament five years ago but has been tied up in court challenges.

In a unanimous judgment, seven Supreme Court judges said the legislation did not breach European Union law.

The judges ruled the measure was a "proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim".

Ministers said a 50p-per-unit minimum would help tackle Scotland's "unhealthy relationship with drink" by raising the price of cheap, high-strength al cohol.

'Absolutely delighted'

The whisky association had claimed the move was a "restriction on trade" and there were more effective ways of tackling alcohol misuse.

After the Supreme Court verdict, ministers are expected to make Scotland the first country in the world to establish a minimum price for alcohol, possibly early next year.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: "Absolutely delighted that minimum pricing has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

"This has been a long road - and no doubt the policy will continue to have its critics - but it is a bold and necessary move to improve public health."

How does minimum pricing work?

Image caption The Scottish government believes cracking down o n cheap alcohol will help tackle the country's binge-drinking culture

The Scottish government's aim is to reduce the amount that problem drinkers consume simply by raising the price of the strongest, cheapest alcohol.

The move is not a tax or duty increase. It is a price hike for the cheapest drink, with any extra cash going to the retailer.

Last year, Alcohol Focus Scotland claimed the maximum recommended weekly intake of alcohol (14 units) could be bought for just £2.52.

It said super-strength cider and own-brand vodka and whisky could be purchased for as little as 18p per unit of alcohol.

The 50p-per-unit minimum outlined by the legislation would raise the price of the cheapest bottle of red wine (9.4 units of alcohol) to £4.70, a four-pack of 500ml cans of 4% lager would cost at least £4 and a 70cl bottle of whisky could not be sold for less than £14.

Minimum Pricing



Bottle of whisky

  • Strength 40% ABV

  • Volume 70cl

  • Units of alcohol 28


Minimum pricing



Bottle of Vodka

  • Strength 37.5% ABV

  • Volume 70cl

  • Units of alcohol 26.25


Minimum pricing

White wine


Bottle of White wine

  • Strength 11.5% ABV

  • Volume 75cl

  • Units of alcohol 8.625


Minimum pricing

Red wine


Bottle of red wine

  • Strength 12.5% ABV

  • Volume 75cl

  • Units of alcohol 9.375


Minimum pricing



Bottle of cider (normal strength)

  • Strength 5% ABV

  • Volume 1 litre

  • Units of alcohol 5


Minimum pricing



Four cans of lager

  • Strength 4% ABV

  • Volume (4x440 ml) 1.76 litres

  • Units of alcohol 7.04


Minimum pricing



Big bottle of alcopops

  • Strength 4% ABV

  • Volume 700ml

  • Units of alcohol 2.8


Off-sales and supermarkets

Minimum pricing will not raise the prices of all alcoholic drinks because many are already above the threshold.

Pubs and bars are unlikely to be affected as they usually charge much more than 50p per unit.

The aim is to hit consumption of strong alcohol which is sold at low prices.

The new laws would be "experimental" and expire after six years unless renewed.

Supporters of minimum pricing believe the move is necessary to tackle the country's binge drinking culture, with Scots buying 20% more alcohol on average than peo ple in England or Wales.

What has the reaction been to the verdict?

Dr Peter Bennie, chair of the British Medical Association Scotland, said: "As doctors we see every day the severe harms caused by alcohol misuse and the damage it causes to individuals and their families.

"There are no easy solutions, but minimum unit pricing can make a significant contribution to reducing these harms and saving lives."

Cancer Research UK's cancer prevention expert Linda Bauld said: "Alcohol is linked to seven types of cancer including breast and bowel cancer, and the more you drink the greater your risk of cancer.

"It's a shame expensive legal action has delayed this welcome measure."

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said the Scottish government would have his party's support on implementing the legislation.

He said: "We look forward to seeing whether or not minimum pricing can make an y impact on Scotland's complex and damaging relationship with alcohol."

Timeline: Minimum pricing for alcohol

Image copyright PA

The Supreme Court ruling was the final stage of a five-year legal battle, with the cases already passing through courts in Edinburgh and Luxembourg. After an initial challenge at the Court of Session failed in 2013, the SWA appealed to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The European court said the legislation might break EU law if other tax options would prove as effective, but said it was "ultimately for the national court to determine" whether they did.

The Scottish court subsequently backed the measures for a second time, ruling that tax measures "would be less effective than minimum pricing".

However, in December 2016 the Court of Session judges then allowed the SWA to go to the Supreme Court to challenge their ruling.

May 2012: MSPs pass Scots booze price plan

May 2013: Minimum drink price challenge fails

December 2015: Minimum drink price 'may breach EU law'

October 2016: Courts back minimum alcohol price

December 2016: Whisky firms allowed minimum price appeal

July 2017: Supreme Court judges retire to consider minimum pricing appeal

What's the situation elsewhere in the UK?

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The legislation to bring in a minimum price of 50p per unit was passed by the Scottish Parliament in May 2012

The UK governmen t supported the devolved Scottish administration during the legal process, arguing that minimum pricing was compatible with EU law.

In 2012, then Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to introduce minimum pricing - but the plan was shelved a year later in the face of fierce opposition from the drinks industry.

The Home Office has said the policy remains under review and calls for its reintroduction in England are likely to be reignited when it is implemented in Scotland.

Legislation to establish a minimum price is currently under active consideration by the National Assembly for Wales and by the Irish Seanad (the upper house of the Irish parliament).

In Northern Ireland, former Health Minister Jim Wells had been seeking to introduce minimum pricing before resigning in April 2015.

Source: Google News

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