Drink associations to appeal against minimum unit pricing in Scotland

By Rachel Arthur contact

- Last updated on GMT

MUP in Scotland has been involved in legal challenges since 2012. Pic:iStock
MUP in Scotland has been involved in legal challenges since 2012. Pic:iStock

Related tags: Minimum unit pricing, Scotland

The drinks industry has applied to appeal in the UK Supreme Court against Scotland’s plans for minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcoholic beverages. 

Last month, Scotland’s Court of Session approved the government’s plans​ to introduce MUP on alcoholic beverages. On Friday The Scotch Whisky Association, spiritsEUROPE and Comité Vins announced they will appeal the ruling.

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 the 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 to the domestic court (Court of Session), where the ruling in favor of MUP was announced last month.

Scotch Whisky Association: ‘The Scottish court has not properly reviewed the legislation's compatibility with EU law’

According to data from Nielsen, spirits would be the category most affected by MUP in Scotland, with 69% of volumes currently sold below the 50p per unit threshold.​ Other categories would be affected to varying degrees.

The drinks industry says there is no link between alcohol price increases and reduction in alcohol-related harm. It believes that MUP is an ‘ineffective’ measure that would instead create an illegal barrier to trade.

Julie Hesketh-Laird, acting chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said the decision to appeal to the UK Supreme Court had not been taken lightly.  

“It comes after wide consultation with our member companies and other parties to see whether there is an alternative way forward,” ​she said. “However, given our strong view that minimum pricing is incompatible with EU law and likely to be ineffective, we now hope that our appeal can be heard quickly in the UK Supreme Court.       

"Having studied the ruling, we believe the Scottish court has not properly reviewed the legislation's compatibility with EU law as required by the European Court's judgment.”

Paul Skehan, director general of spiritsEUROPE, said, “Believing, as we do, that the evidence behind this measure is weak at best, that it is unlikely to have any significant impact on alcohol-related harm, and that the measure is probably illegal under EU law, we are left with no appropriate response other than to appeal to the UK Supreme Court.”

But the Scottish government says it is ‘deeply disappointed’ at the appeal. It believes that MUP is the most proportionate and effective way to reduce the harm caused by cheap, high strength alcohol.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said, “I think the SWA may want to consider that minimum unit pricing was passed with the overwhelming support of the Parliament, has been tested in Europe, and has now been approved twice in the Scottish courts.

“We remain committed to ongoing dialogue with the alcohol industry. Should the SWA drop its appeal, and accept that the time has now come to implement this measure that will save lives, it could expect very strong support from across Scotland.”

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