Health officials have welcomed a decision by the Supreme Court that allows the introduction of minimum unit pricing in Scotland, which sets a minimum unit price of 50 pence per unit for alcohol.

The decision brings to an end “the costly and time-consuming legal challenges by global alcohol producers, fronted by the Scotch Whisky Association, to try to block the implementation of the legislation, which was passed without opposition by the Scottish Parliament in 2012,” said Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), which was established in 2006 as a partnership of the Scottish Medical Royal Colleges, concerned about the rise in hospitalisations and deaths due to alcohol consumption in the country.

The lengthy legal battle has included a referral to the European Court of Justice, which returned the decision-making to the Scottish Courts, which twice concluded resoundingly in favour of the Scottish Government’s Act.

According to the SHAAP, in the five years that implementation of Scottish MUP law was delayed more than 6,000 heavy drinkers have died due to their alcohol use. Furthermore, last year there were 1,265 alcohol-related deaths in the country, a jump of ten percent from 2015.

“At long last this important life-saving measure can be enacted. I am grateful to the Scottish Government, and the First Minister in particular, as well as partners across the health and voluntary sectors in the UK and Europe, for championing MUP, against ferocious, cynical opposition by the Scotch Whisky Association and its backers,” said Dr Eric Carlin, the SHAAP’s director, commenting on the ruling.

“The opponents to MUP have shamed the reputation of their industry by prioritising profits over people’s lives. As MUP has been delayed, we have seen the tragic, premature deaths of 24 people every week in Scotland as a result of alcohol misuse, many of them in our poorest communities, and affecting families across our nation. I strongly urge the global alcohol producers to now cease their activities to undermine public health in pursuit of profit here and across the globe.”

The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, part of the SHAAP, also welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision.

“As part of a package of measures MUP now has the potential to reduce the number of alcohol related deaths and to lessen alcohol related harm in Scotland which impacts on not only individuals but also their families and communities,” said its president, Prof Derek Bell.