Drinks industry reacts to alcohol minimum unit price

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Minimum unit pricing on alcohol in Scotland threatens business and exports, warns the Scotch Whisky Association
Minimum unit pricing on alcohol in Scotland threatens business and exports, warns the Scotch Whisky Association
The Scottish drinks industry has warned that this week’s UK Supreme Court ruling in favour of a minimum price for alcohol will hit business and damage exports.

Seven Supreme Court judges ruled that legislation on a minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol did not breach European Law, overturning a challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

The SWA said it accepted the court’s ruling on MUP, but argued that it risked harming exports of whisky.

SWA chief executive Karen Betts said: “We will now look to the Scottish and UK governments to support the industry against the negative effects of trade barriers being raised in overseas markets that discriminate against Scotch whisky as a consequence of minimum pricing, and to argue for fair competition on our behalf. 

“This is vital in order that the jobs and investment the industry provides in Scotland are not damaged. At home, we hope to see an objective assessment of the impact of MUP.”

The SWA said it would continue to work in partnership with the government and the voluntary sector to promote responsible drinking and tackle alcohol-related harm.

Negative effect of minimum pricing

The Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) echoed the SWA’s fears over the negative effect of minimum pricing on Scottish businesses.

Mile Beale, WSTA chief executive, said: “We look to the Scottish government to provide clarity to businesses on how MUP will be implemented and to give them sufficient time to do so as efficiently as possible.

“Equally, MUP’s impact on businesses and on all consumers must be rigorously and objectively monitored and evaluated over time.”

Beale urged the Scottish government to continue supporting policies that had already proved effective in curbing alcoholism, alongside the new MUP.

Consumer rights group Consumer Choice Centre (CCC) argued the MUP would cause more harm than good.

More harm than good

It claimed that there was no evidence that set minimum prices on alcohol would lead to a reduction in consumption. Instead, it would lead to lower income families spending more of their income on alcohol.

Luca Bertoletti, European affairs manager of the CCC, added: “There's also an imminent risk that consumers will pivot to lower quality spirits and minimum prices being a stimulus for black markets and moonshined alcohol.

“If the Scottish government wants to really tackle the problem of alcoholism, it should work more on the educational programmes and allow consumers to make their own choices.”

The Supreme Court ruled that Scotland could set a minimum price for alcohol on Wednesday (November 15), following five years of court challenges.

It would see drinks charged at 50p per unit, in a bid to curb excessive alcohol consumption in the country.

Related topics: Regulation, Beverages

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