Scotland will become the first country in the world to introduce Minimum Unit Pricing

Scotland will become the first country in the world to introduce Minimum Unit Pricing

It was a dark day for the drinks industry yesterday, and one that demands we take a long, hard look at ourselves. Because, the confirmation of Minimum Unit Pricing's pending arrival in Scotland suggests there's a lot more wrong in our industry than we would have ourselves believe.

Early yesterday, the UK Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by three drinks trade associations against the Scottish Government's plan to introduce Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) on alcohol in the country. The ruling came a year after the European Court of Justice referred the long-running legal row between to the two sides to national courts. 

Consequently, yesterday's move greatly increases the likelihood of other EU countries adopting MUP. It also puts price right at the forefront of responsible drinking efforts.

And, that should sound alarm bells at all your HQs.

The alcoholic drinks industry is justifiably (to a degree) proud of its efforts to promote responsible drinking. The brand-related ads, the celebrity-fronted spots, the industry-wide investments and commitments; one can't fault alcohol companies for pushing the 'Drink Responsibly' mantra.

And yet...

That the Scottish Government has been granted the powers to introduce MUP represents the first sure-fire sign that our industry can't be trusted to regulate itself. Oh, we can shout all we like about what we've done and how much we've spent.

It's clearly not enough.

To be clear, the Scotch Whisky Association and fellow-petitioners SpiritsEurope and Comité Européen des Entreprises Vins deserve tremendous praise for their efforts in trying to get MUP overturned - after all, the argument that setting a floor price counters free trade is economically sound. But, as the Supreme Court put it: "The courts should not second guess the value which a domestic legislator puts on health."

So, if your company has a long - and impressive - record of responsible drinking activations, ask yourself this: Why isn't it helping solve the perceived problems in Scotland? And probably Ireland? And probably Estonia? And probably Wales?