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03/05/2013

Successful court judgement on Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol in Scotland

The Court of Session, Scotland's supreme civil court, has ruled in favour of the legality of the Scottish government's plans to introduce minimum pricing per unit of alcohol.

3 May 2013. Judge Lord Doherty, sitting at the Court of Session in Edinburgh said the minimum alcohol pricing policy was within the powers of Scottish ministers and not incompatible with EU law.

Lord Doherty heard the legal arguments from the alcohol industry and the Scottish Government over several days earlier this year.

A summary of his decision said: "The court ruled that the Acts of Union were not an impediment to the minimum pricing measures.

"The court also decided that the measures were not incompatible with EU law."

The judgment can be read at http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2013CSOH70.html

The alcohol industry will have 21 days in which to decide whether it has grounds for appeal. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has said it was surprised and disappointed by the ruling and would appeal the decision.

Background information:

MSPs passed The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 in May 2012, setting the 50p minimum unit price as part of an effort to tackle alcohol misuse.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and other European wine and spirits producers took action against the proposal claiming that it breaches the UK's European Union (EU) treaty obligations because it would restrain trade. They also maintain it will be ineffective in tackling alcohol misuse and say it will penalise responsible drinkers and damage the industry.

Holyrood ministers have said they are committed to introducing the policy in a bid to address Scotland's unhealthy relationship with drink, and save lives.

They undertook not to bring in the measure while the legal action was with the courts

Minimum pricing has been favoured by health professionals as an effective strategy to address the growing health crisis that has resulted from the increased affordability of alcoholic beverages in some countries” has said Mariann Skar, Secretary General of the European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare). “There is sound evidence that if the measure is introduced substantial health and social benefits will follow. MUP could save over 300 lives a year in Scotland. European law should not be invoked to defeat alcohol harm reduction strategies since the well-being of the population and the promotion of public health are primary objectives of the European treaties” she added.