Scottish court backs minimum unit pricing plans

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

Scotland's minimum unit pricing policy was passed 4 years ago, but has not been implemented due to legal challenges. Pic:iStock/zmurciuk_k
Scotland's minimum unit pricing policy was passed 4 years ago, but has not been implemented due to legal challenges. Pic:iStock/zmurciuk_k

Related tags: Scotch whisky association, Scotland

Scotland’s Court of Session has approved the government’s plans to introduce minimum unit pricing (MUP) on alcohol. 

In 2012 the Scottish Parliament passed legislation to introduce a minimum unit price of 50p per unit for alcohol, but the move was challenged by drinks associations.

The Court of Session heard the case and referred it to the Court of Justice of the European Union. In December 2015 the case was returned back to the domestic court (Court of Session).   

Following Friday’s ruling from the Court of Session, the Scottish Government is calling on the Scotch Whisky Association and the other organizations behind the legal challenge to ‘respect the democratic will of the Scottish Parliament and the judgement of the highest court in Scotland’.

But the Scotch Whisky Association says that it is considering its next steps, such as a possible appeal to the UK Supreme Court.

Scottish government: ‘We have always been convinced this policy will save lives’

Aileen Campbell, Scotland’s Minister for Public Health and Sport, said she was delighted with the judgement and that MUP is ‘the most proportionate and effective way to reduce the harm caused by cheap, high strength alcohol’.

“This policy was passed by the Scottish Parliament unopposed more than four years ago,” ​she said.

“In that time, the democratic will of our national parliament has been thwarted by this ongoing legal challenge, while many people in Scotland have continued to die from the effects of alcohol misuse.

“The ruling is a landmark one, and should mark the end of the legal process, allowing this important policy to finally be brought forward.”

Scotch Whisky Association: ‘There are more effective ways of tackling alcohol misuse’

The Scotch Whisky Association, spiritsEUROPE and Comité Vins launched their legal action against minimum unit pricing in 2012, saying that there is no link between alcohol price increases and reduction in alcohol-related harm.

They fear that the ‘ineffective’ measure would instead create an illegal barrier to trade.

David Frost, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said the organization will study the details of Friday’s judgement from Scotland’s Court of Session, and consult with members before deciding on the next steps, such as any possible appeal to the UK Supreme Court.

"We regret the Court of Session's ruling in favour of the Scottish Government on minimum unit pricing (MUP),”​ he said.

“We continue to believe that MUP is a restriction on trade and that there are more effective ways of tackling alcohol misuse. However, we of course remain committed to working with all partners to address this problem so that the long-term trend of declining alcohol-related harm in Scotland continues.”

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