The UK Supreme Court has dismissed a challenge against new legislation that allows Scotland to enforce minimum pricing on alcohol.
The judges rejected an appeal from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), standing by the plan which aims to improve public health.
The legislation outlines a minimum price of 50p per unit.
Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s cancer prevention expert, called the ruling “great news for the health of the nation”.
The initial proposals began in 2012 but were delayed as the Supreme Court debated whether the minimum pricing act was compatible with European Union law.
The Supreme Court challenge came after Scotland’s Court of Session’s rejected the SWA’s appeal against the measure in October 2016.
The SWA had argued during a July hearing that the minimum unit pricing is “disproportionate” and illegal under European law. It also stated there were better ways of achieving the Scottish Government’s goal.
But the Supreme Court voted unanimously that European Union law was not breached by the introduction of minimum unit pricing and stated the measure is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.
Bauld said that there is a wealth of evidence showing that a minimum unit price for alcohol will save lives and money for the NHS.
Professor Petra Meier, director of the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, said her research has consistently shown that minimum unit pricing would improve health by targeting the cheap, high strength alcohol consumed by the heaviest and highest risk drinkers.
“It is estimated that once it has reached its full effect, the introduction of a 50p minimum unit price in Scotland would result in 120 fewer alcohol-related deaths and 2000 fewer hospital admissions per year,” she said.
Bauld added that alcohol is linked to seven types of cancer, including breast and bowel cancer, with higher intake related to greater cancer risk.
“It’s a shame expensive legal action has delayed this welcome measure,” she said. “We now expect the Scottish Government to press ahead as soon as possible. Swift action here will encourage the other UK nations to follow quickly in Scotland’s footsteps.”