Plans to set a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland have been backed by the Scottish courts.
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. The ruling now 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. The Scottish government, health professionals, police, alcohol charities and some members of the drinks industry believe minimum pricing would help address Scotland’s “unhealthy relationship with drink”.
Sir Ian Gilmore responding to the ruling made today in the Scottish courts in relation to minimum unit pricing in Scotland:
“We welcome this court ruling, and hope to see minimum unit pricing speedily implemented in Scotland. Now is the time to act, even if the global alcohol producers, prioritising commercial interests over Scotland’s health, try to delay further by another appeal.
Now is also the time for England and Wales to follow suit and introduce MUP. The UK government committed to introducing MUP in 2012, and the public support the measure. Government-commissioned research estimates that in the first year following the implementation of MUP in England, there would be nearly 140 fewer crimes per day.
MUP leaves pub prices untouched, and targets the cheap alcohol which is preferentially consumed by children and dependent drinkers. Recent AHA research has found that alcohol is being sold for as little as 16p per unit, with 3 litre bottles of white cider, which contain the same amount of alcohol as 22 shots of vodka, available for just £3.49.
MUP would also be of greatest benefit to those on low income, with 8 out of 10 lives saved coming from the lowest income groups, and greater harm reductions felt by these groups. The government has spoken of its commitment to even out life chances, and MUP would go a long way in furthering this agenda.”
Dr John Holmes from the University of Sheffield said:
“The policy would mainly affect harmful drinkers, and it is the low income harmful drinkers—who purchase more alcohol below the minimum unit price threshold than any other group—who would be most affected. Policy makers need to balance larger reductions in consumption by harmful drinkers on a low income against the large health gains that could be experienced in this group from reductions in alcohol-related illness and death.”
Modelling by the University of Sheffield estimates that a 50p MUP in Scotland would have the following effects after one year:
· 60 fewer deaths
· 1,300 fewer hospital admissions
· 3,500 fewer crimes
According to the modelling, the health gains will continue to increase over 20 years. At this time, in Scotland there would be an estimated:
· 120 fewer deaths due to alcohol each year
· 2,000 fewer hospital admissions due to alcohol each year
Work commissioned by the Government from the University of Sheffield revealed that 1 year after introducing an MUP in England there would be:
· 50,700 fewer crimes
· 376,600 fewer days absent from work
· 192 fewer deaths
Professor Petra Meier, Director of the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, and another author of the study, added:
“Our study finds no evidence to support the concerns highlighted by Government and the alcohol industry that minimum unit pricing would penalise responsible drinkers on low incomes. Instead, minimum unit pricing is a policy that is targeted at those who consume large quantities of cheap alcohol.
“By significantly lowering rates of ill health and premature deaths in this group, it is likely to contribute to the reduction of health inequalities.”
Minimum pricing for alcohol effectively targets high risk drinkers, with negligible effects on moderate drinkers with low incomes – Research report from the University of Sheffield.