Minimum pricing challenge heads to court
15th January, 2013 by Andy Young
The Scotch Whisky Association’s (SWA) legal challenge to minimum pricing for alcohol in Scotland will come before a court today.
The Scottish government has passed legislation that would see a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol introduced. But the SWA is challenging the law, claiming that it is illegal, will damage the industry and that minimum pricing will not tackle problem alcohol use.
The case will be heard by judge Lord Doherty at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Scotland’s highest civil court. Eight days have been set aside for both sides to put forward their case.
The Scottish Parliament passed the Alcohol Minimum Pricing Bill last spring and ministers are committed to the policy, which they say will save lives.
After the legislation was passed the SWA announced that it planned to lodge a challenge. The Association maintains that minimum pricing will be ineffective in tackling alcohol misuse, will penalise responsible drinkers and put extra pressure on household budgets.
The SWA’s legal team is expected to argue that minimum pricing would restrain trade and therefore breaks the UK’s EU treaty obligations. They will also claim that the law breaks the Act of Union which stipulates that there must be a common market across the UK.
The petition for a judicial review is being brought by the SWA in conjunction with European wine and spirit producers. The Scottish and UK governments are both expected to respond in court to the arguments put forward.
Plans for minimum pricing in England and Wales have also been unveiled, with a 45p per unit price put forward and a consultation on the plan is due to finish next month, but a lot of eyes will be on the Scottish courts to see the result of this case. Recent research suggested that the public was “sceptical” about the government’s plans for minimum alcohol pricing.