Scotland votes for 50p per unit

The drinks industry has again questioned the legality of a minimum pricing Bill in Scotland.

Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said that the decision to vote through the minimum unit pricing Bill is “misguided”.

According to the trade body, a minimum unit price of 50 pence will increase the price of a one litre bottle of blended scotch whisky from an average of £16.40 to a minimum of £20, an increase of 22%, equivalent to the duty rises of the last four Budgets.

Hewitt said: “It’s disappointing that the Scottish Government has pressed ahead with its misguided Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) policy. MUP has consistently been found to be illegal in Europe. We look forward to the scrutiny of both the principle of MUP and the regulation setting the price by the European Commission and the member states of the European Union. We expect legal challenges to emerge once the Scottish Government notifies its proposals to the EC. We hope the UK Government will take due note and drop its own proposals for minimum pricing of alcohol.

“The Scottish Government’s own research shows minimum pricing will not reduce the number of hazardous drinkers. It’s therefore an ineffective policy.

“To overcome the legal block to its plans, the Scottish Government will have to convince the EC that MUP is justified on health grounds and that there are no less trade restrictive measures available. Overseas, MUP would set a precedent that other countries will use to justify 'health related' protectionist measures against scotch whisky. This would come at a time when the scotch whisky industry is delivering on the government’s agenda of encouraging export-led recovery.”

Wine and Spirit Trace Association (WSTA) interim chief executive Gavin Partington added: "Whilst the introduction of minimum unit pricing has been approved by the parliament today, questions remain about its legality and effectiveness in tackling the root causes of alcohol misuse.

"It is disappointing that so much time has been devoted to minimum unit pricing when there are many proven, effective and targeted measures that could already have been implemented by the Scottish Government to begin tackling alcohol misuse."