FOUR years is far too long for a democratically decided policy to be delayed. In 2012, MSPs voted to bring in a 50p minimum unit price for alcohol in Scotland. They did so because urgent action was needed to tackle Scotland’s dysfunctional relationship with alcohol.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and international wine makers, while appreciating that measures were necessary, did not consider minimum pricing the best strategy, and so began legal opposition that has held up the policy’s implementation.

Yesterday, judges at the Court of Session rejected their appeal against the plans, saying the grounds for it were “not well founded”. They considered that alternative measures, such as increased taxation, were simply not as capable of protecting life and health.

The finding was welcomed by doctors, social workers, academic experts and charities. This newspaper also welcomes it. Minimum pricing is commonsensical and reasonable. Consider: Scots can buy their weekly maximum recommended alcohol intake – 14 units – in cider for as little as 18p per unit at supermarket off-sales. Vodka can be bought for 36p per unit and lager for 26p. Three-quarters of Scotland’s alcohol is purchased in supermarkets and off-licences. Hitherto, price has been less of a deterrent than it might have been. And many drinkers have paid the price for that. Society also pays a price: alcohol costs billions a year in health, social care, crime and loss of productivity; it clogs up the courts and is implicated in half of violent crime.

Minimum pricing is not a panacea. It can only be part of a wider strategy that highlights the dangers of drinking and supports those seeking help. But it is a good start. The SWA is considering its next steps, but the industry should call time on obstructive legal manoeuvring and let this measure at least be tried.