The Scottish Government has won its five-year fight to bring in Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) to Scotland, which will make it the first country in Europe to do so. The top court in the land, the UK Supreme Court, ruled that Scotland can set a minimum price for alcohol, rejecting a challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).
In a unanimous judgment, seven Supreme Court judges said the proposed legislation did not breach European Union law. The judges ruled the measure was a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.
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.”
The proposed MUP of 50p per unit of alcohol now looks likely to be introduced as early as next April.
The Scotch Whisky Association, which had fought the legislation for five years on behalf of its members, said it accepted the Supreme Court’s ruling. Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said, “We accept the Supreme Court’s ruling on minimum unit pricing (MUP) of alcohol in Scotland. Looking ahead, the Scotch Whisky industry will continue to work in partnership with the government and the voluntary sector to promote responsible drinking and to tackle alcohol-related harm.”
Paul Bartlett, Group Corporate Relations Director, Tennent’s owners, C&C Group, which supported MUP commented, “C&C Group plc has been a strong and vocal supporter of Minimum Unit Pricing since it was first proposed in 2011. We welcome today’s landmark decision. It is the right move to make; a progressive step forward in tackling the problems of alcohol misuse in Scotland and we congratulate the Scottish Government on its perseverance.”
He continued, “Although the majority of Scots enjoy alcohol responsibly, we are concerned about the availability of strong, cheap alcohol and its correlation with harmful drinking that causes misery across Scotland. As part of a package of measures, Minimum Unit Pricing will help to address this.
“Now that the Supreme Court have made their ruling, we urge the industry to get behind the decision. We’ll be working with the Scottish Government and our customers over the coming months to support the successful introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing.”
Paul Waterson, Chief Executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, who also supported Minimum Unit Pricing commented, “The relationship between low prices and increased consumption is obvious. Supermarkets strategy of using alcohol as a loss leader, very often charging prices cheaper than water, which is totally irresponsible, is a major factor in causing much of the alcohol abuse we see in Scotland today. Minimum pricing will be a major element in eradicating these problems.”
“Cheap priced alcohol has turned Scotland into a nation of stay at home drinkers. 72% of total alcohol sales in Scotland are off sales, 80% of this total is sold by supermarkets. When people drink in uncontrolled environments alcohol related problems increase significantly.”
He concluded, “Our market needed intervention to bring back price stability. The market could not correct itself – it needed robust government action. The only efficient way of doing that is by minimum pricing. We applaud the Scottish Government for their policy .”
“Already this year we have seen in the run up to Christmas many television adverts advertising irresponsible supermarket deals on alcohol which will seduce people into drinking more than they would normally. Thanks to this legislation loss leading of alcohol at child friendly prices will become a thing of the past.”