The Scottish government has announced that it will be the first country in the world to impose a minimum price for alcohol on consumers. The new laws will be part of the “Alcohol Minimum Pricing Act”, which was originally voted for by MP’s in May 2012. The act will mean the minimum price retailers can charge for alcohol in Scotland will be 50p per unit.
Scottish ministers have been looking for a resolution to the binge drinking culture and the harm caused by high rates of alcohol misuse in the country. With evidence suggesting that there’s a strong link between cost and overall consumption, setting a minimum price per unit is seen as an effective strategy to improve public health in the long term.
Reports show that alcohol is 54% more affordable in the UK than it was in 1980, and it’s possible to exceed the recommended limit of 14 units per week for under £3. There is evidence that dealing with the price, along with other measures like education, could significantly reduce alcohol related harm.
The new measures would see a 70cl bottle of 37.5% vodka being sold for a minimum of £13.13 and a 75cl bottle of 12.5% wine costing at least £4.69. Alcohol Focus Scotland says that “In the first year alone, the minimum pricing policy could prevent 60 alcohol-related deaths, 1,600 hospital admissions and 3,500 crimes.”
The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 was originally passed in June 2012, and has been subject to years of appeals and legal challenges by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA). The group claims that the measures are “ineffective and illegal”, and the case was taken to court.
When the original appeal failed in 2013, the group took their legal battle to to Court of Justice of the European Union and the Court of Session. The Supreme Court has since advised the SWA that the Scottish government’s proposal “is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” and that it is compliant with EU laws and regulations.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that she is “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”
C&C Group, who produce Tennent’s Lager and Magners Cider, have also said that they support the measures. A spokesperson for the company said that “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.”