Scotland is set to become the first country in the world to introduce a Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol.
Following a lengthy legal battle, the UK Supreme Court today overruled a three-way challenge by the trade bodies the Scotch Whisky Association, SpiritsEurope and the Comité Européen des Enterprises Vins.
It means that the Scottish Parliament could be free to introduce a MUP of £0.50/unit as early as next year.
Because MUP sets a minimum retail price, and bars, hotels and restaurants all sell their products at higher prices in any case, the on-trade are unlikely to be directly affected by the legislation.
Under MUP, a bottle or can’s price is calculated according to the number of units of alcohol it contains. A standard-sized 13% bottle of wine (9.8 units) would have to cost at least £4.90, a 37.5% spirit (26 units) would be £13, a 40% spirit (28 units) £14.
Worst affected, however, would be strong cans of beer and cider. While a 4% 500ml can would need to cost at least £1.00, under MUP an 8% can would be twice that – and significantly more than many of these products currently retail for.
This, according to the bill’s defenders, is the whole point.
Commenting on its decision, the Supreme Court said that Minimum Unit Pricing ‘targets the health hazards of cheap alcohol and the groups most affected in a way that an increase in excise or VAT does not.’
Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said she was ‘delighted’ by the decision.