Welsh Government to press ahead with minimum alcohol pricing

The Welsh Government has welcomed the Supreme Court judgment that the proposed minimum price for alcohol in Scotland does not break European Union competition law.

The Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething, says he will now consider any detailed implications before pressing ahead with his Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) Bill.

It is expected that he would use the power to set a minimum price similar to what is proposed in Scotland - fifty pence per unit.

A standard bottle of whisky would have to cost at least £14, so only the cheapest brands would be affected.

But, the Scotch Whisky Association challenged the law in Scotland.

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

The Welsh Government has been closely monitoring developments in the long-running legal case surrounding the Scottish minimum pricing legislation and is delighted that the Supreme Court has today issued its unanimous judgment dismissing the appeal brought by the Scotch Whisky Association and others and upholding the Scottish legislation. It considers that minimum pricing is a proportionate means of addressing alcohol related harm. The judgment confirms the question of where the balance ought to be struck between protecting health and trade matters is a matter for the devolved, democratically elected legislature to decide and states, in the clearest terms, that the courts should not second-guess the value which a domestic legislature puts on health. Alcohol-related harm is a significant public health problem in Wales. Tackling excessive alcohol consumption is a priority for this Welsh Government. Figures recently published show that in 2016, there were 504 alcohol-related deaths in Wales, all of which were avoidable. As part of our overall approach to tackling alcohol-related harm, we have long recognised that action to combat the availability of cheap and high-strength alcohol has been missing in our strategy,

Vaughan Gething AM, Health Secretary

The Supreme Court found that although minimum pricing will cause a 'minor distortion' of the market for alcohol, including European Union trade and competition, it was "impossible" to conclude that this should be regarded as outweighing the health benefits intended by minimum pricing.

The Court rejected the Scotch Whisky Association's argument that higher taxes would be a more appropriate response than minimum pricing.

Taxation would impose an unintended and unacceptable burden on sectors of the drinking population, whose drinking habits and health do not represent a significant problem in societal terms in the same way as the drinking habits and health of in particular the deprived, whose use and abuse of cheap alcohol the Scottish Parliament and Government wish to target. In contrast, minimum alcohol pricing will much better target the really problematic drinking to which the Government’s objectives were always directed.

Supreme Court Judgement

It's taken five years from the Scottish Parliament passing the legislation for the Scottish Government to finally win the right to go ahead with minimum alcohol pricing.