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Scotland can introduce minimum alcohol pricing, Supreme Court rules

Scotland can set a minimum price for alcohol, the UK’s highest court has ruled.

The decision by the Supreme Court marks the end of a five-year battle between the Scottish Parliament and opponents.

People looking to buy strong alcohol could see prices rise over the coming months (Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

MSPs said a 50p-per-unit minimum would help tackle Scotland’s “unhealthy relationship with drink” by raising the price of cheap, high-strength alcohol.

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But the move was challenged by Scotch Whisky Association.

Now judges have ruled the legislation did not breach European law and in an unanimous decision, the seven judges said the move was a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, tweeted her delight at the news (Andy Buchanan – Pool/Getty Images)

Ministers are now expected to push on with plans to make Scotland the first country in the world to establish a minimum price for alcohol, possibly as early as next year.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “Absolutely delighted that minimum pricing has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

“This has been a long road – and no doubt the policy will continue to have its critics – but it is a bold and necessary move to improve public health.”

The 50p-per-unit minimum outlined by the legislation would raise the price of the cheapest bottle of red wine (9.4 units of alcohol) to £4.70.

A four-pack of 500ml cans of 4% lager would cost at least £4 and a 70cl bottle of whisky could not be sold for less than £14.

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The SWA said the legislation amounted to a restriction on trade, arguing there were better ways to tackle alcohol abuse.

NHS Scotland has previously reported that Scots are by far the nation’s biggest drinkers.

Sales in 2015 were 20% higher in Scotland than they were in England and Wales, with each adult consuming the equivalent of 477 pints of beer.