Drinks price case goes all the way

Scotch Whisky Association takes MUP to Supreme Court

MINIMUM unit pricing (MUP) has once again been delayed as the Scotch Whisky Association takes its legal battle to the highest court in the land.

As reported by Scottish Grocer last month, plans to implement MUP for alcohol in Scotland were given the green light by the Court of Session in Edinburgh, which said the measure would not breach European Law.

The Court of Session said the Scottish Government could require retailers to charge a minimum price for alcohol. Holyrood wants that to be 50p per unit of alcohol.

However, the SWA, which brought the appeal to the Court of Session in the first place, has decided to appeal to the UK Supreme Court, the last legal lever available to the organisation.

Julie Hesketh-Laird, acting chief executive of the SWA, said that opting to pursue an appeal “is not a decision we have taken lightly”, and comes after “wide consultation with our member companies and other parties to the case to see whether there is an alternative way forward”.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

Health secretary Shona Robison said the group’s decision was “deeply disappointing”.

“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 their appeal, and accept that the time has now come to implement this measure that will save lives, they could expect very strong support from across Scotland.

“We remain determined to implement this policy as soon as possible, and we’re confident that, like the Court of Session, the Supreme Court will find the policy to be lawful,” she said.

Minimum Unit Pricing was first passed by MSPs in May 2012 and would set a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol sold.