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Minimum alcohol pricing set to come into force in Scotland

Supreme Court judges throw out legal challenge from Scotch Whisky Association.

Minimum pricing for alcohol is set to come into force in Scotland after a legal challenge was thrown out.

The Scottish Government has faced a years-long battle to introduce the legislation, which would create a minimum unit price for alcohol of at least 50p.

Ministers said it would help fight Scotland's "unhealthy relationship with drink".

The Supreme Court's seven justices announced their findings on Wednesday after dismissing an argument from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) that minimum unit pricing is "disproportionate" and illegal under European law.

A lawyer representing the SWA argued at a hearing in London in July that there were better ways to achieve the Scottish Government's aim of lowering alcohol consumption and tackling associated problems.

The Scottish Government said it would now conduct a consultation and planned to introduce minimum pricing "as quickly as possible".

https://stv.tv/news/features/1402222-minimum-pricing-what-does-it-mean-and-how-will-it-affect-you/ | default

Health secretary Shona Robison said: "This is a historic and far-reaching judgment and a landmark moment in our ambition to turn around Scotland's troubled relationship with alcohol.

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

She added: "This has been a long journey and in the five years since the act was passed, alcohol-related deaths in Scotland have increased.

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

"Given the clear and proven link between consumption and harm, minimum pricing is the most effective and efficient way to tackle the cheap, high-strength alcohol that causes so much damage to so many families."

"This has been a long journey and in the five years since the Act was passed, alcohol related deaths in Scotland have increased. With alcohol available for sale at just 18 pence a unit, that death toll remains unacceptably high."
Health secretary Shona Robison

Scotch Whisky Association chief executive Karen Betts said the organisation accepted the Supreme Court's ruling.

"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," she said.

"We will now look to the Scottish and UK Governments to support the industry against the negative effects of trade barriers being raised in overseas markets that discriminate against Scotch Whisky as a consequence of minimum pricing, and to argue for fair competition on our behalf."

She added: "This is vital in order that the jobs and investment the industry provides in Scotland are not damaged.

"At home, we hope to see an objective assessment of the impact."

Supreme Court: Judges announced ruling on Wednesday.
Supreme Court: Judges announced ruling on Wednesday. PA Images

The Scottish Conservatives said the party would support the Scottish Government but called for extra measures to tackle alcohol abuse in Scotland.

Shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said: "We backed the Scottish Government's minimum pricing proposals on the condition they were legally sound and there was a sunset clause included.

"Now the court has given these measures the green light, we need to see if they work or not.

"The Scottish Government will have our support on that and we look forward to seeing whether or not minimum pricing can make any impact on Scotland's complex and damaging relationship with alcohol."

He added: "I urge ministers to use this legislation in conjunction with a range of different measures to effectively reduce the impact of alcohol abuse in Scotland."

Reformed alcoholic Alister MacKinnon, who runs the North Sea Garden Mission, said he is not convinced the legislation will help.

'There are many people sitting in offices trying to work out something that is not real. They are in the office but it's out there that the problem is.'
Reformed alcoholic Alister MacKinnon

"When you come to the point of binge drinking and you are needing alcohol and if alcohol has really got into your system the price is no problem," he said.

"If you haven't got the money, you will get the money."

He added: "Alcohol is a huge, huge killer and this pricing will do absolutely nothing at all.

"There are many people sitting in offices trying to work out something that is not real.

"They are in the office but it's out there that the problem is."

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