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Minimum unit pricing for alcohol clears final legal hurdle in Scotland

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j5372 (Published 21 November 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j5372
  1. Petra Meier, professor of public health,
  2. Alan Brennan, professor of health economics and decision modelling,
  3. Colin Angus, research fellow,
  4. John Holmes, senior research fellow
  1. Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to: P Meier p.meier{at}sheffield.ac.uk

Health and social benefits are likely to follow implementation next year

Scotland’s journey to a minimum unit price for alcohol has taken 10 years. It can be traced to a 2007 report by SHAAP, the coalition of Scottish Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties.1 The Scottish minority government made it a central aim in its 2009 alcohol strategy,2 but an attempt to pass legislation to implement a 50 pence (€0.56; $0.66) minimum unit price in 2010 failed. The multinational beverage giant SABMiller gifted crates of beer to opposition politicians in a show of gratitude.3

The policy fared better two years later when the new majority government passed the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012. Opposition was reduced by including a review clause requiring ministers to report to parliament on the operation and effect of the policy after five years and a sunset clause terminating the policy after six years unless renewed.

Legislative success was followed by a five year legal battle with alcohol industry trade bodies. At the heart of the case was the question of whether the policy meets the stipulation in EU law that public health policies restricting the free movement of goods …

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