Judges back minimum alcohol price in Scotland

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Judges have today backed the Scottish Government’s plans to set a minimum alcohol price in Scotland, despite an appeal from the Scottish Whisky Association (SWA).

A court session held today in Edinburgh ruled in favour of raising the minimum price of a unit of alcohol to 50p.

The ruling means the Scottish Government can now implement the policy which was initially backed by MSPs in 2012. But its progression was halted after the SWA and other European drinks producers challenged the decision.

While the Scottish Government believe the move will help improve Scotland’s “unhealthy relationship with drink”, the SWA has argued it is in breach of European Law.

The challenge was taken to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which concluded a tax rise on alcoholic drinks “is liable to be less restrictive of trade” than minimum pricing, but ultimately referred the decision back to the Court of Session.

Today, Lord Carloway said the basis of the appeal was “not well-founded” and ruled in favour of the Scottish Government.

However, the SWA has said it will consider taking its appeal to the UK Supreme Court, but will consult its members before making any final decisions.

David Frost, Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said, “We regret the Court of Session’s ruling in favour of the Scottish Government on minimum unit pricing (MUP). 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.

“We will study the details of the judgement and consult our members before deciding on next steps, including any possible appeal to the UK Supreme Court.”

Scottish brewer Tennent’s has been a supporter of minimum unit pricing from the time it was proposed in Scotland.

Managing Director, Andrea Pozzi, welcomed the ruling “as a positive step forward in tackling the problems of alcohol misuse.”

Pozzi said, “As the brewer of Tennent’s Lager and a range of other quality brands, we are part of the fabric of Scotland’s community and we support the responsible consumption of alcohol.

“Although the majority of people enjoy alcohol responsibly, we are concerned about the availability of strong, cheap alcohol. We believe that Minimum Unit Pricing can and will have a positive impact on communities across Scotland.

“Our position is consistent across the geographies we operate in, including Ireland and Northern Ireland. Today’s ruling in Scotland should hopefully encourage progress of MUP legislation across the Island of Ireland.”

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