UK Supreme Court approves alcohol minimum pricing

Today the UK Supreme Court has approved Scotland’s Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Act, ruling against The Scotch Whisky Association’s (SWA) final chance of appeal.


Five years after the  bill was backed by MSP’s at Holyrood, the new legislation is set to enforce a 50p minimum price per unit on alcohol.

The flagship policy formed a package of 41 proposals that aim to reduce alcohol harm and consumption in Scotland.

Scotland’s Health Secretary, Shona Robinson said:

”Alcohol is 60 percent more affordable in the UK than it was in 1980 and alcohol misuse costs Scotland £3.6 billion each year- £900 for every adult.

”There is strong evidence that tackling price helps reduce consumption and related harm.”

The Scotch Whisky Association, acting on behalf of global alcohol producers, has fought the legislation’s enactment since 2012.

(SWA) claimed that the measures were illegal under EU law, distort competition and see health take precedent over the right to free trade.

During court proceedings, QC Adam O’Niell said:

”It is a political decision that pricing should be used to decrease alcohol consumption and improve public health.

”We point out that there are a whole number of ways in which pricing can legitimately be used in accordance with EU law to achieve those aims.”

The Scottish Grocer’s Federation (SGF) also expressed their concern, asserting that a minimum pricing will push small convenience stores out of the market.

In recent debate, SGF’S Chief Executive, Pete Cheema, had said:

”A significant sales drop will benefit the large supermarkets as they will be able to cope better.”

Despite the sustained legal challenges seven Supreme Court judges have made the unanimous decision that the legislation is legally sound.

Responding to the defeat, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, Karen Betts, released this statement:

“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. ”

Under the new laws, a bottle of wine will cost at least £4.69, a pack of four 500ml lagers will cost £4.00, while the cheapest bottle of whisky will cost at least £14.00.

A survey revealed that currently approximately half of all alcohol sold in Scotland does not meet the new pricing standards.

However, with the new measures set to be in place ‘as quickly as is practicable’ the changes are expected to come in to effect before Christmas.


Photo Credit: Robfoto