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15-11-2017, 11:25
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It was disappointing, although not entirely surprising, news that the Supreme Court has rejected the Scotch Whisky Association’s appeal (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-41981909) against the Scottish government’s plans for minimum alcohol pricing. I’ve been over all this many times before and don’t propose to go into the detail again. But it will do little or nothing to combat alcoholism, while hitting poorer households hard in the wallet. It will encourage bootlegging and illegal distilling, with all the potential health issues that causes.
Hopefully the UK government will see sense and not extend it south of the Border. But, assuming they don’t, it will obviously lead to a huge amount of cross-border shopping, with a procession of white vans trundling north up the A74(M) from Carlisle ASDA. And, if they did, it would deal a grievous blow to farmhouse cidermakers (http://pubcurmudgeon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/fashionable-cause.html), many of who may abandon selling commercially.
There will be some useful idiots within CAMRA who will welcome the decision as getting one over on the supermarkets, but it won’t give anyone a single extra penny to spend in pubs (http://pubcurmudgeon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/pricing-customers-into-pub.html). Indeed, as Christopher Snowdon argues here (http://velvetgloveironfist.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/supermarket-alcohol-giffen-good.html), it could even lead to people spending less in pubs if they need to reallocate a fixed budget for spending on alcohol.
And don’t imagine that it will leave the on-trade completely unscathed. It’s not uncommon for Wetherspoon’s to price their guest ales, including those of 6% ABV and above, at £1.99 a pint. With the 50p CAMRA discount voucher, that would take them down to a mere 44p a unit!
Some will say “well, Mudgie, it’s ironic that this was one example of where the EU was protecting British consumers”. I will accept that its partial attempts to stop countries erecting barriers to trade in the name of health policy was one of the few good points about the EU, but even that has now been thrown out of the window. And we really shouldn’t need a supra-national body to protect us from ourselves – we should be free to make our own laws, however stupid they may be.
An all-round bad day for the interests of drinkers in the UK. Plus, of course, once it proves to be ineffective, there will be the inevitable pressure to ratchet the minimum price ever upwards...

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