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MUP court ruling a sad day for the internal market
15 November 2017, 02:37 | Hattie Nash
The UK Supreme Court has today ruled that minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol can proceed in Scotland, concluding a lengthy legal challenge from drinks trade groups.
But Chris Snowdon, the head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said that while politicians and doctors would not be affected by minimum pricing, it would "clobber" poorer drinkers.
"Scottish Parliament health secretary Shona Robison welcomed the decision and confirmed she intends to make a statement to Parliament shortly, setting out the Scottish Government's next steps".
The policy was introduced to combat alcohol-related illness and crime.
The aim of the Scottish government is to reduce the amount that problem drinkers consume simply by raising the price of the strongest, cheapest drink.
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The Scottish government has prepared for the introduction of a minimum preferred price per unit of 50 pence ($0.66) per unit, meaning that four 440 ml cans of five percent strength lager would cost at least 4.40 pounds, a 12 percent alcohol bottle of wine would cost at least 4.50 pounds, and a 70 cls bottle of whisky could not be sold for less than 14 pounds.
SWA chief executive Karen Betts said the organisation accepted the Supreme Court ruling, adding: '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.
The decision means that Scots could see the price of wines, beers and spirits sold in off-licences and other shops increase as early as next spring. "The champagne at their Christmas parties will not be affected".
"This is a historic and far-reaching judgment and a landmark moment in our ambition to turn around Scotland's troubled relationship with alcohol", said Robison.
The SWA, backed by the European drinks industry, had argued that minimum pricing breached EU and global trade law as it interfered with free trade and open borders regulations.
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'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.
A small number of countries, including Canada and Russian Federation, and some states in the U.S., have a form of minimum pricing, according to the Institute for Alcohol Studies.
The Scottish Government argues the policy is needed as nearly a fifth more alcohol is sold per adult in Scotland than in England and Wales, while alcohol-related deaths have increased by 10 per cent over the previous year.
"Scotland has been leading the way on minimum unit pricing but other countries, such as Ireland and Wales, are now also actively pursuing legislation".
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.
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