Scotland to serve up minimum pricing for alcohol

Reuters
Scotland is to become one of the first countries in the world to introduce minimum alcohol pricing in an attempt to tackle a worsening public health problem with binge drinking.
Reuters

Scotland is to become one of the first countries in the world to introduce minimum alcohol pricing in an attempt to tackle a worsening public health problem with binge drinking.

Britain’s Supreme Court announced the landmark move that ends a five-year legal battle in which the Scotch Whisky Association, the industry lobby, lost an appeal.

Scotland is famous for whisky production but the price change will target cheap, strong alcohol favored by binge drinkers, experts said. The British drinks industry is already grappling with an uncertain outlook after Britain’s exit from the European Union. The SWA called for government help to overcome trade barriers and protect jobs in Scotland.

Alcohol-related deaths in Scotland have risen 10 percent since 2015 and the government says Scotland’s troubled relationship with drink is significantly worse than the rest of the UK. Seventeen percent more alcohol is sold per adult in Scotland than in England and Wales last year.

“Minimum unit pricing is effective because it targets the kind of drinking most likely to lead to the greatest harm. The price of a pint in the pub won’t change but the price of strong white ciders and own brand spirits that are mainly bought by dependent drinkers will rise markedly,” said Alcohol Focus Scotland, a charity.

The Scottish government has prepared for the introduction of a minimum preferred price per unit of 50 pence (66 US cents) per unit.

As a result, four 440ml cans of 5-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 70cls bottle of whisky could not be sold for less than 14 pounds.

Earlier this year the Alcohol Health Alliance found the cheapest drink to be available at just 16p per unit in the UK.

“Minimum pricing is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim,” the Supreme Court said.


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