Minimum pricing will go ahead

UK Supreme Court rules in favour of Scottish Government policy

MINIMUM unit pricing will go ahead in Scotland following a ruling by the UK Supreme Court, bringing a legal battle that has raged on since 2012 to a close.

Judges for the supreme court have ruled in favour of Scottish Government legislation first passed by MSPs in May 2012, but which has been subject of a protracted legal battle led by the Scotch Whisky Association ever since, with the association taking the government to court in Edinburgh and Luxembourg.

Delivering the verdict, which was unanimously agreed upon by all seven Supreme Court judges, Lord Mance said the court had found minimum pricing to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

The SWA has argued since 2012 that minimum pricing discriminates against particular products in a way that is not permitted under EU Law. However the Scottish Government has contended that if the measure is properly justified on health grounds then its effects on the market a can be justified under the law.

Responding to the verdict, Scottish Government health secretary Shona Robison said: “This is a historic and far-reaching judgment and a landmark moment in our ambition to turn around Scotland’s troubled relationship with alcohol.

“In a ruling of global significance, the UK Supreme Court has unanimously backed our pioneering and life-saving alcohol pricing policy.

“This has been a long journey and in the five years since the Act was passed, alcohol related deaths in Scotland have increased. With alcohol available for sale at just 18 pence a unit, that death toll remains unacceptably high.

“Given the clear and proven link between consumption and harm, minimum pricing is the most effective and efficient way to tackle the cheap, high strength alcohol that causes so much damage to so many families.”

Robison added that the Scottish Government will now seek to implement minimum pricing “as quickly as possible”.

Karen Betts, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: “We accept the Supreme Court’s ruling on minimum unit pricing (MUP) of alcohol in Scotland. Looking ahead, the Scotch Whisky industry will continue to work in partnership with the government and the voluntary sector to promote responsible drinking and to tackle alcohol-related harm.

“We will now look to the Scottish and UK Governments to support the industry against the negative effects of trade barriers being raised in overseas markets that discriminate against Scotch Whisky as a consequence of minimum pricing, and to argue for fair competition on our behalf. This is vital in order that the jobs and investment the industry provides in Scotland are not damaged. At home, we hope to see an objective assessment of the impact of MUP.”