Campaigners against the Scottish Parliament's plans to introduce minimum alcohol pricing have vowed to fight on, despite losing the latest stage in their legal battle.
Minimum pricing plans are compatible with European Union law, judge rules
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), Spirits Europe and Comité Vins are to appeal against Lord Doherty’s dismissal of their joint petition for judicial review, which follows a seven-day hearing in Edinburgh’s Court of Session in January.
Lord Doherty held that the plans to introduce Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) at 50p per unit of alcohol were within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, and were within the powers of the Scottish Ministers.
He dismissed the three organisations’ claims that the plans were in breach of the Acts of Union, were outside the Parliament’s legislative competence, and were incompatible with European Union law.
‘We are disappointed by this decision and will appeal it, believing that it contravenes not only 30 years of European case law on minimum unit pricing, but also the views expressed by the European Commission and 11 Member States,’ said Paul Skehan, director general of Spirits Europe.
‘We are confident that, on appeal, the measure will be proven to be illegal and counter to the rules underpinning the single European market.’
The SWA agreed, with chief executive Gavin Hewitt saying: ‘We have consistently opposed MUP, so our decision to appeal should not come as a surprise.
‘The Scottish Government has agreed not to introduce MUP until the legal process, including appeals, is complete.’
Miles Beale, chief executive of the UK’s Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), voiced disappointment at the decision, but described it as ‘just the first step in a long legal process’ and supported the proposed appeal.
But Scottish Nationalist MSP Bob Doris, deputy convener of the Scottish Parliament’s health and sport committee, said, ‘Today’s decision shows that we were right to push ahead with minimum pricing legislation.
‘Nobody has ever claimed that minimum pricing is a silver bullet for all of Scotland’s alcohol-related woes, but it is an important tool that this country needs and we now look forward to being able to implement the policy.’
Written by Richard Woodard