Sober Heads Prevail: Minimum-Unit Pricing Upheld in Scotland

bargain booze at a UK off-licenseScotland is getting closer to knocking out the bottom shelf. In late October, Scottish courts rejected a challenge to minimum unit pricing, a statute that sets a "floor" for alcohol sales. This floor is determined by the ABV, eliminating the market for the high-alcohol, low-price beverages that enable harmful drinking patterns.

The appeal was brought by the Scotch Whisky Association, a trade group representing the £5 billion Scotch industry but largely funded by liquor giant Diageo. Diageo alone represents 24 Scotch whisky distilleries, but that is far from the extent of their holdings. Although Scotch is generally considered not subject to minimum unit pricing, Diageo's international brands include many low-price products in the developing world, and some critics suspect Diageo fears the Scottish Parliament's public health plan will set a precedent for similar statutes worldwide.

Diageo's opposition reads doubly ironic as they are also the backers of Stop Out of Control Drinking, a Scottish anti-alcohol campaign. Despite its mission, the campaign has refused to support minimum-unit pricing.

Prior to the victory in Scottish court, the statute withstood challenge in the coruts of the European Union. The ongoing litigation has been decried by members of the Scottish Parliament as a "stalling tactic." "This policy was passed by the Scottish Parliament unopposed more than four years ago," said Aileen Campbell, Scotland's Minister for Public Health. "In that time, the democratic will of our national parliament has been thwarted by this ongoing legal challenge, while many people in Scotland have continued to die from the effects of alcohol misuse."

The Scotch Whisky Association along with two other trade groups announced they will be appealing the ruling to the UK Supreme Court.

READ MORE about minimum unit pricing in Scotland.