Doctors welcome SNP flagship policy

Doctors are urging the speedy introduction of the policy

Doctors called for minimum alcohol pricing to be introduced as a matter of urgency last night following the court’s ruling.

Leading health campaigners also urged the Scotch Whisky Association to respect the judges’ finding.

Dr Peter Bennie, who chairs the British Medical Association in Scotland, said it must mark an end to the many delays which have held up the policy and cost lives in the process.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, hailed the “great day for Scotland’s health”.

And Emily Robinson, deputy chief executive of Alcohol Concern, urged the Westminster Government to follow suit.

Meanwhile, Eric Carlin, director of campaign group Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, insisted “so-called quality whisky brands” would be unaffected, with the focus on cheaper drinks such as strong cider.

Speaking from his practice in Dingwall, Dr Miles Mack, chairman of the Royal College of GPs Scotland which represents a network of about 5,000 family doctors, said there would be a positive impact on communities across the country.

And he invited those in the drinks industry who remained sceptical into his surgery “to see for themselves the misery an unhealthy relationship with alcohol can cause”.

Andrea Pozzi, managing director of Tennent’s, was also among those to welcome the ruling.

He said: “Although the majority of people enjoy alcohol responsibly, we are concerned about the availability of strong, cheap alcohol.”

Not everyone is in favour of the policy, however.

Christopher Snowdon, a spokesman for the Institute of Economic Affairs, described it as “a worrying precedent for consumers of other products”.

He added: “The court has decided that EU free trade rules can be sacrificed in favour of poorly defined concepts like ‘public health’ and ‘public morality’.

“Brexit means that this ruling has limited practical consequences for the implementation of minimum pricing. Scotland would be able to do it sooner or later anyway. But it shows how fragile the common market is in the face of special pleading.”

Last month a report into the state of Scotland’s health found more than a quarter of people in the north and north-east were drinking “hazardous” amounts of alcohol every week.