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Supreme Court allows Scotland to set minimum price for alcohol

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was “delighted” Holyrood can take action on cheap booze

The UK’s Supreme Court judges have ruled in favour of the Scottish Parliament over a minimum pricing for alcohol – allowing the government at Holyrood to push ahead with plans to crack down on cheap booze.

Supreme Court judges said legislation already passed by the parliament in Edinburgh in 2012 did not break any of the EU’s commercial laws.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said it accepted the decision, despite its five-year legal battle to prevent the changes.

Scottish ministers, along with several leading campaign groups and health bodies, believe bringing in a set minimum price per unit – expected to be 50p – would stop the damaging effects of high-strength alcohol being sold at such low costs.

According to Alcohol Concern, some cider brands were being sold at 18p per unit.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was “absolutely delighted that minimum pricing has been upheld by the Supreme Court.”

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“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.”

Now is the time for Westminster to step up and save lives

The push for minimum pricing legislation grew in Scotland over the past decade with the rise of cheap, super-strength lagers and ciders and low-cost brand-own spirits in supermarkets.

Alcohol Focus Scotland discovered that someone only had to spent £2.52 to by the maximum recommended weekly intake – 14 units of alcohol.

Health experts south of the border are hoping today’s decision could have knock-on consequences.

“Now is the time for Westminster to step up and save lives,” said Richard Piper, the chief executive of Alcohol Concern.

“As alcohol has become more affordable, the rates of alcohol-related ill-health have risen. The fact is, something has to be done.”

Photo: Ninian Reid, licensed under Creative Commons.

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