Scotland is to become the first country in the world to introduce a minimum price for alcohol, after a unanimous judgment by the UK Supreme Court.
Plans to introduce a minimum unit price (MUP) of 50 pence began five years ago, when the Scottish Government passed the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012, in response to a growing number of alcohol-related deaths.
The Scotch Whisky Association challenged the Act in court, saying it was illegal under European law, but the judgment today said: “Minimum pricing is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.”
On average, 24 Scots die every week from alcohol-related health problems, prompting politicians and campaigners alike to praise the ruling.
Scottish Health secretary Shona Robison called it “a ruling of global significance”.
She 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.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was delighted by the decision. She called the policy a “bold and necessary move to improve public health.”
Scotland and Wales – which has also been considering implementing MUP – are now free to go ahead with their plans. Legislation is expected to come into force in Scotland early next year.
Health campaigners are now putting pressure on Westminster to follow suit.
Richard Piper, Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern, said: “Now is the time for Westminster to step up and save lives. As alcohol has become more affordable, the rates of alcohol-related ill-health have risen.
“The fact is, something has to be done.”
Plans to introduce minimum pricing in England were drawn up under David Cameron’s coalition government, but scrapped in 2013.