Scotch admits defeat on minimum pricing

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Famous for its whisky, Scotland is now on course to introduce a minimum price for alcohol - possibly as early as next year - following a ruling by the UK Supreme Court in London on Wednesday, November 15.

SCOTLAND will become the first part of the United Kingdom to set a minimum price for alcohol in a bid to target problem drinking.

Chris Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the think-tank The Institute of Economic Affairs, 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.

" This policy will restrict the availability of cheap, high strength, alcohol which has been causing the most damage to communities across Scotland, without impacting moderate drinkers who can continue to enjoy a drink responsibly", he stated.

'The champagne at their Christmas parties will not be affected'.

The Scottish Parliament's MUP proposals, put forward in 2012 but placed on hold pending legal challenges, require Ministers to review the measure after five years.

"We will now look to the Scottish and United Kingdom governments to support the industry against the negative effects of trade barriers being raised in overseas markets that discriminate against Scotch whisky as a outcome of minimum pricing, and to argue for fair competition on our behalf", said Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scottish Whisky Association.

"Alcohol is 60 percent more affordable in the United Kingdom than it was in 1980 and alcohol misuse costs Scotland £3.6 billion each year [US$4.73billion] - £900 for every adult [US$1184]".

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

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

'With alcohol available for sale at just 18 pence a unit, that death toll remains unacceptably high.

Afterwards SWA chief executive Karen Betts said: 'We accept the Supreme Court's ruling on minimum unit pricing (MUP) of alcohol in Scotland'.

The judgement, handed down by justice Lord Mance, said that increasing alcohol price by an excise duty or Value-Added Tax increase "would not be equally effective" at targeting cheap alcohol.

Some states in Canada operate variants of minimum unit pricing, while are other European Union countries, such as Ireland and Estonia, which are also considering the measure.

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

He said Scotland now has more outlets selling alcohol than it has GP practices, and added: "The Scottish Government have been the torch bearers of progressive drug and alcohol policies worldwide".

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.