Scottish court decision also bolsters the Irish case for minimum pricing

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Alcohol Action Ireland has welcomed the ruling by the Court of Session, Scotland’s supreme civil court in favour of the legality of the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce minimum pricing.

The judgement clears the way for the introduction of minimum pricing in Scotland following the legal challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and several European wine and spirits bodies, who claimed that minimum pricing breaches the UK’s European Union (EU) Treaty obligations because it would restrict trade. The SWA intends to appeal the decision and also has a parallel case in the European Court of Justice.

Judge Lord Doherty heard the legal arguments from the alcohol industry and the Scottish Government over several days earlier this year. He ruled today that minimum pricing is not incompatible with EU law. The Scottish Government had passed the legislation in May 2012, setting a minimum unit price of 50p.

“This ruling is a significant one, not just for Scotland, but also for Ireland and the other EU countries which are seeking to introduce minimum pricing – a floor price beneath which alcohol cannot be sold – to tackle alcohol-related harm,” said Conor Cullen, Communications Officer with Alcohol Action Ireland.

“Minimum pricing is one of the key recommendations contained in the Steering Group Report on the National Substance Misuse Strategy and both the Minister for Health James Reilly and Minister Alex White, who is due to bring the Alcohol Action Plan before Cabinet, have expressed their strong support for this key measure, as they recognise its potential to help address our harmful relationship with alcohol.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that tackling pricing is one of the most effective measures a Government can undertake to reduce alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms. This has been confirmed by the experience of minimum pricing in Canada, where it has reduced alcohol consumption and related harms, including deaths due to alcohol, while leading to health benefits for the people of British Columbia over the past two decades,” said Mr Cullen.

“Minimum pricing will help tackle alcohol-related harm by targeting the very cheapest alcohol products, which are those favoured by the heaviest and most harmful drinkers among us, as well as our young people. These drinks have been sold at pocket-money prices in this country for far too long now. However, minimum pricing will not affect the price of drinks in pubs, clubs and restaurants, and will have little or no effect on moderate drinkers.

“Three out of five Irish people support a minimum price for alcohol according to a Health Research Board (HRB) survey, while minimum pricing also has the backing of a coalition of 30 national charities and representative organisations, including the Irish Cancer Society, the ISPCC, Barnardos, St Vincent De Paul, Focus Ireland, the Samaritans, St Patrick’s University Hospital, the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland, Women’s Aid, the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and the Irish Medical Organisation. Each of these organisations joined the Alcohol Action Ireland-convened coalition because, in their different ways, they all have to deal with the huge fall-out from widely available and very cheap alcohol in this country.”