Edinburgh, November 15: The minimum unit pricing for alcohol, which was passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2012 has been ruled out by the UK Supreme Court on Wednesday. Welcoming the decision Health Secretary Shona Robison said that she intends to make a statement to Parliament shortly, setting out the Scottish Government’s next steps.
The UK Supreme Court has now dismissed an appeal by the Scotch Whisky Association and others, ruling that the proposed minimum unit pricing policy is appropriately targeted, lawful and proportionate with the support of highest court in Scotland – and a referral to the European Court of Justice.
Before implementing the policy, Ministers will now conduct a consultation on the proposed 50 pence per unit price and refresh the Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) that is required by Parliament. Subject to the outcome of the consultation and the refreshed BRIA, the Scottish Government anticipates setting the minimum unit price at 50 pence per unit.
Robison said that this is a historic and far-reaching judgment and a landmark moment in our ambition to turn around Scotland’s troubled relationship with alcohol. In a ruling of global significance, the UK Supreme Court has unanimously backed our pioneering and life-saving alcohol pricing policy. She further added that this has been a long journey and in the five years since the Act was passed, alcohol-related deaths in Scotland have increased. With alcohol available for sale at just 18 pence a unit, that death toll remains unacceptably high.
In Scotland Annual alcohol deaths statistics published in August show there were 1,265 alcohol-related deaths in 2016. This is up from 1,150 in 2015, an increase of 10%. On an average, alcohol misuse causes about 670 hospital admissions and 24 deaths a week, death rates are almost 1.5 times higher than in the early 1980s. Alcohol misuse costs Scotland £3.6 billion each year, £900 for every adult.
Scotland's problem is significantly worse than the rest of the UK. In 2016, 17% more alcohol was sold per adult in Scotland than in England & Wales. Affordability drives increased consumption due to which alcohol is now 60 percent more affordable in the UK than it was in 1980. Weekly lower-risk drinking guidelines of 14 units can be bought for £2.52 which is 18 pence a unit. 51percent of alcohol sold in off-trade is less than 50 pence per unit.
A minimum unit price of 50 pence is estimated to result in121 fewer deaths per annum by year 20 of the policy and a fall in hospital admissions of just over 2,000 per annum by year 20 of the policy.
The Scottish Government introduced a 50p minimum unit price in 2012 which is subjected to a sunset clause and should be renewed or it will expire after six years. The Minimum Pricing has attracted substantial attention in recent years. It is a floor price below which retailers are not permitted to sell alcohol. Unlike a tax, any additional revenue from raising prices is retained by retailers, rather than the government. Some form of minimum pricing is in place in six countries like Canada, certain states of the USA, Russia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.