Alcohol price plan will save lives, say health charities
Charities have welcomed a legal ruling backing the minimum pricing of alcohol.
The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled against a challenge by the Scotch whisky industry, who claimed the plans were a breach of European law.
This paves the way for the Scottish Government to implement its policy, passed by MSPs in 2012.
Under the plans, a price of 50p per unit of alcohol would be set, taking a bottle of spirits to at least £14.
This ruling is a landmark one and should mark the end of the legal process, allowing this important policy to finally be brought forward
The judgement could be appealed by the drinks industry at the UK Supreme Court in London, but in the meantime, charities said the ruling was a big step forward.
Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “This is a great day for Scotland’s health. Minimum pricing is widely supported by doctors, social workers, children’s charities and many more who want to get rid of the cheap vodkas and super-strength ciders that cause so much damage.
“Scotland has been waiting more than four years to implement this policy which will prevent thousands of hospital admissions and crimes, and save hundreds of lives.
“We hope that minimum pricing will now be put in place as quickly as possible so we can start seeing the benefits.”
Christine Duncan, chief executive of Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, pointed out that there are 22 alcohol-related deaths each week in Scotland - yet it is still possible to purchase booze for as low as 18p per unit.
She added: "This decision has been a long time coming and behind it lies the hard work and dedication of many people.
“We would like to see the implementation as swiftly as possible so that less families and communities have their lives blighted by the sale and targeting of cheap alcohol.”
Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s senior public affairs manager in Scotland, said: “The decision by the courts today is great news for the health of the nation.
“Alcohol is linked to seven types of cancer including breast and bowel cancer, and the more you drink the greater your risk of cancer.
“A wealth of evidence shows that a minimum unit price for alcohol will save lives in Scotland. It will also save the NHS money.
“We now hope the Scottish Government is given a chance to implement this life-saving policy as soon as possible.”
The Scottish Government has called on the Scotch Whisky Association and others in the drinks industry who have been behind the legal challenge to respect the democratic will of the Scottish Parliament – and the judgement of the highest court in Scotland.
Aileen Campbell, minister for public health, said: “This policy was passed by the Scottish Parliament unopposed more than four years ago.
“In that time, the democratic will of our national parliament has been thwarted by this ongoing legal challenge, while many people in Scotland have continued to die from the effects of alcohol misuse.
“Today’s ruling is a landmark one, and should mark the end of the legal process, allowing this important policy to finally be brought forward.”