Scotland has  became the world’s first country to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol, in what its government expects will be a trailblazing move following years of legal battles.

“Scotland is the first country in the world being bold enough and brave enough to introduce minimum unit pricing,” said Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

The policy, designed to cut alcohol-related harm, will set a minimum price of 50 pence ($0.70, 0.57 euros) per unit of alcohol.

It has been welcomed by the medical profession and health campaigners as the biggest breakthrough in public health since the ban on smoking in public.

“This legislation will be life-saving,” said Alison Douglas, chief executive of the Alcohol Focus Scotland charity, who predicted it would save 58 lives in the first year.

Whisky industry worries

Retailers said they expected minimal hits on some stock but had long been anticipating the scheme.

Linda Williams, proprietor of a store in Edinburgh, said it could “even out the playing field between supermarkets and local shops”.

“There will be no more heavy discounting on spirits and on big packs of beer which really have caused all the problems in the first place with alcohol,” she added.

The plan finally came into force this week after years of court wrangling delayed its introduction.

Britain’s Supreme Court last year backed the Scottish government’s move, declining an appeal by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and other industry representatives to strike it down.

Seven judges in London unanimously ruled that such pricing is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” and does not breach European Union law.

That ended a half-decade legal battle which had gone all the way to the European Court of Justice in 2015.

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