Minimum pricing dispute to be heard in Europe

The case to implement a minimum unit price of alcohol in Scotland is to be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The move comes as the result of a recent decision by the Inner House of the Court of Session.

The Scottish Government’s minimum pricing measures are contained within the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012. A legal challenge against the provisions was brought by a number of organisations including the Scottish Whisky Association, which claims that the minimum unit pricing measures are contrary to European Law.

Health Secretary Alex Neil has welcomed the court’s decision and stressed that it was right that this “precedent-setting case” was considered by the European Court of Justice, the highest authority on EU law.

“The Scottish Government has always believed that minimum unit pricing is the right thing to do and will save lives,” he commented. “Scotland has a difficult relationship with alcohol and we need to urgently take action to tackle this problem that puts a huge burden on our society.”

“The evidence shows that minimum unit pricing is an effective way to tackle alcohol-related harm,” he added. “This is because it targets heavy drinkers in particular as they tend to drink the cheap, high strength alcohol that will be most affected by the policy.”

The Scottish Whisky Association also welcomed the news of the referral.

“We are pleased that the Court of Session in Edinburgh is referring the minimum unit pricing (MUP) case to the Court of Justice of the European Union,” commented David Frost, Scottish Whisky Association chief executive. “From the outset we said that we believed MUP was contrary to European Union law and that it was likely in the end to go to the European Court.”

“We also believe MUP would be ineffective in tackling alcohol misuse and would damage the Scotch Whisky industry in the UK and overseas,” he added.

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