Scottish Decision on Minimum Unit Pricing Shows way for NI
15 November 2017
Following a challenge brought by the Scotch Whisky Association against the Scottish Government the UK Supreme Court has ruled that Scotland’s plan to introduce a Minimum Unit Price for alcohol would be legal.
Commenting on the decision, Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster said a new Executive, or in its absence, the UK government, should follow suit and introduce Minimum Unit Pricing to Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency.
"The ruling by the UK Supreme Court clears the way for Scotland to introduce price controls on cheap alcohol to tackle problem drinking. With both the Republic of Ireland and Wales also planning to introduce a Minimum Unit Price for alcohol the days of alcohol being sold at pocket-money prices are hopefully coming to an end.
“However, despite the fact that there has been wide-spread support across all the Northern Ireland political parties in the past, the lack of a devolved government in Northern Ireland and the fact that Westminster is unlikely to introduce a minimum unit price, means it could be some time before Northern Ireland follows suit.
We call upon a new Executive or in in its absence the UK Government to introduce these measures to Northern Ireland as a matter of urgency.
"People should of course be able to enjoy alcohol, but with 6% of drinkers in Northern Ireland drinking 44% of the alcohol, there is clearly a need to address the irresponsible retailing of alcohol, like large supermarkets using cheap alcohol as a footfall driver, disregarding the impact on society.
"For moderate drinkers the estimated rise in price from Minimum Unit Pricing would have been a relatively modest at £4.70 a year, but with high risk drinkers accounting for 66% of the total reduction in units of alcohol consumed this would have been a small price to pay.
“It is important to say however that minimum pricing will not be the panacea for all harmful drinking practices, nor will it drive more people back to the pub.
“Where we will see some difference however, is the move away from trying to tackle our alcohol problems simply through higher taxation and regulatory obligations as these measures have never proven to be effective.
“For now, Hospitality Ulster will continue to work closely with Government to ensure that minimum pricing is introduced in Northern Ireland as soon as possible and by doing so, help tackle the serious issue of alcohol misuse and abuse.”
C&C Group plc, the leading manufacturer, marketer and distributor of branded cider, beer, wine and soft drinks also welcomed the decision of the UK Supreme Court
Tom McCusker, Managing Director C&C Group Ireland, commented: “C&C Group plc has been a strong and vocal supporter of Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP), as progressive legislation that will promote and encourage a responsible relationship with alcohol in society. We welcome today’s landmark decision of the UK Supreme Court to uphold its introduction in Scotland and reaffirm our support for the introduction of MUP in Ireland and simultaneous introduction of MUP in Northern Ireland.
While most people enjoy alcohol responsibly and in moderation, we believe MUP is a responsible and proportionate measure that will effectively target widespread access to alcohol that is very cheap, relative to its strength. By targeting the correlation between harmful drinking levels and strong, cheap alcohol, MUP will help reduce irresponsible alcohol consumption and moderate the relationship some of our society has with alcohol.
Today’s UK Supreme Court decision will have an immediate and lasting impact on public health policy in Scotland. We hope the ruling will further strengthen the case for the introduction and implementation of this legislation in Ireland and Northern Ireland”.