Supreme Court rejects challenge against plans for minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland

  • Video report by ITV News Scotland correspondent Peter Smith

Scotland could be set to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol after the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to plans aimed at improving public health.

The appeal by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) was dismissed by seven judges on Wednesday.

During a hearing in July, they heard argument from the organisation that minimum unit pricing (MUP) is "disproportionate" and illegal under European law.

The SWA said that there were better ways to achieve the Scottish Government's aim

But the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that there was no breach of European Union law and that minimum pricing "is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim".

  • What is minimum pricing?

Minimum unit pricing sets a floor price for a unit of alcohol, meaning it cannot legally be sold for less than that.

The more alcohol content, the more expensive the drink will be.

The Scottish Government insists that MUP is not a tax, but rather "a targeted way of making sure alcohol is sold at a sensible price".

  • What does the Scottish Government want to introduce?

The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 was passed by MSPs at Holyrood in 2012.

It called for alcohol to be sold at a minimum price of 50p per unit with the belief that MUP will mostly affect the cheap white ciders and value spirits with high alcohol content that tend to be favoured by 'high-risk' drinkers.

  • Does Scotland really have a problem with the bottle?

Almost a fifth more alcohol is sold per adult in Scotland than in England and Wales.

Statistics also show that more than 40% of prisoners were drunk at the time of their offence.

Alcohol-related deaths have also increased by 10% over the last year while in other European countries outside the UK and Ireland they are falling.

Health campaigners believe cheap alcohol encourages consumption. Credit: PA

It also costs Scotland £3.6 billion each year, or £900 for every adult, ministers have said.

  • Does the price really matter?

Health campaigners argue that when the price of alcohol goes down, consumption goes up, and experiences more harm because of it.

Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems and Alcohol Focus Scotland are among those to have campaigned for an increase in the price to reduce consumption.

In contrast. the Scotch Whisky Association believe it will not tackle alcohol misuse effectively and says there is no evidence that MUP is effective in reducing alcohol-related harm.

The body insists it is a regressive policy that hits responsible drinkers, in particular those with the lowest incomes.

The SWA agrees there is a problem with alcohol misuse but say alcohol-related harm in Scotland has declined in recent years.