By DebbieH 16 Nov 2017 7 min read

Minimum price for alcohol sales backed by UK Supreme Court

The UK Supreme Court has backed plans by the Scottish government to introduce a minimum price for all alcoholic drinks. This ruling is the culmination of a five-year legal battle led by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA). The seven judges were in unanimous agreement that the plans are “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. The plans were proposed with the aim of combatting the rise of alcohol-related illness.

The following charts show the rise of consumer spending the UK over the past decade and the increase in alcohol-related deaths. According to these figures from the Office for National Statistics, Scotland’s alcohol-related death rate has consistently remained higher than that of the rest of the UK.


Statistic: Consumer spending on alcoholic drinks in the United Kingdom from 2005 to 2016 (in million GBP)* | Statista

Infographic: Scotland has Britain's highest alcohol-related death rate | Statista Find more statistics at Statista


The minimum price per unit is likely to be set at 50p and will place pressure on other areas of the UK to put similar regulations in place. A similar option was considered by ministers in England in 2013 but the idea was scrapped. There are calls for this to be re-visited in the wake of Wednesday’s ruling. Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern, Richard Piper, commented: “Now is the time for Westminster to step up and save lives.”

A 50p-per-unit minimum targets only the alcohol with the lowest prices and the highest strength. It will have little effect on all but the cheapest alcoholic products as most are already above the threshold. For example, a bottle of wine at 12% could be sold for £4.50.

Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison commented, “this is a historic and far-reaching judgement and a landmark moment in our ambition to turn around Scotland’s troubled relationship with alcohol.”

The ruling is also a victory for Nicola Sturgeon who has backed the plans since she was Scotland’s health secretary. She shared her delight at the news on Twitter: