If You’re Buying Whisky Or Other Liquor In Scotland, It’s About to Get More Expensive
Scots may feel like they need a good, stiff drink following an intense American campaign resulting in the election of a President who has significant private investment plans in their country.
They’d better go out and buy it now because it’s about to get more expensive.
Two weeks ago, an Edinburgh court ruled in favor of a Scottish government measure implementing a minimum price for alcohol at 50 pence per unit (which is 25 millilitres for spirits), about 60 U.S. cents. That lifts the price of a four-pack of 4.0% lager to a minimum £4 ($5), and a bottle of cheap spirits to £14 ($17).
The policy was originally passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2012, but the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), the lobbying body for the whisky industry, challenged it in court, claiming it’s a breach of E.U. law. Last December, the European Court of Justice sent an appeal of the decision back to Scotland’s national courts.
The Scottish government has argued that the law will be a boon for public health, and will affect only the cheapest alcohol.?? It’s an attempt to take on Scotland’s binge-drinking culture, which sees the merry Scots buying on average 20% more alcohol than their English and Welsh neighbors.
Health professionals, the police, and alcohol charities – groups that deal with public health and alcoholism issues, not charities giving away free alcohol – agree that the law would help deal with alcoholism and underage drinking rates.
So what has made the SWA come out against the law? It’s worried about the potential effect on its business, one of Scotland’s main exports with a market worth £3.95 billion last year. In a 2012 statement, when it first lodged the challenge, it claimed that a minimum price can artificially distort trade in the E.U. alcoholic drinks market, specifically that copycat laws in other countries could target imports and raise their prices further in the name of public health.
The group estimates that prices will rise for up to 85% of the blended Scotch whisky sold in Scotland. Various other European alcohol industry lobbying groups in both wine and spirits share those concerns, voicing support for the SWA case.
So how much more expensive will my whisky be here in Edinburgh? As prices for single malt whisky are already high, they won’t be touched by the minimum pricing law. However, there are some tasty supermarket-brand whiskies that I’ve been wanting to try – yes, that’s a thing here and a post I’ll save for another time – and it might be worth buying bottles now before they go up by a few pounds.