Minimum alcohol pricing: Scottish Government bid to delay legal challenge
THE Scottish Government is attempting to delay a legal challenge to its legislation on minimum alcohol pricing after the drinks industry lodged new evidence ahead of the start of the hearing yesterday.
The six-day hearing had been fixed some time ago, but Gerry Moynihan, QC, for the Scottish ministers, yesterday argued for it to be discharged.
He said some 240 pages of new reports had been submitted by the Scotch Whisky
Association (SWA) in the past ten days, and more time was needed to study and respond to them.
He said: “It is dense, factual material, involving an analysis of health statistics. “This legislation is of national importance. Everyone agrees that the abuse of alcohol is
critical to the well-being of this nation.
“Ministers would much prefer this legislation to be debated, but its importance is so high to the health of this nation that they would prefer that they are given a full opportunity to respond to this factual material, and that just cannot be done in the time available. This case will not be completed in six days.”
Aidan O’Neill, QC, for the SWA, disagreed and urged Lord Doherty to order that the hearing proceed.
“Nobody wants this to drag on,” he said. “This is a matter of particular importance to the public in Scotland, and Europe-wide. I say there is no need for a discharge. It would be a waste of court time and resources spent on this matter to date. Lengthy and expensive preparations have been made,” said Mr O’Neill.
He added that the new reports had been submitted within an agreed timetable, and the only thing “very late” was the request for a discharge. He had been advised of it only on the eve of the hearing. Under the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012, it is intended that the floor price of a unit of alcohol should be 50p. Introduction of the measures has been suspended while the challenge by the SWA, with European spirits and wine organisations, was mounted in the court, and the European Commission examined the proposal. The commission’s opinion was disclosed last month, and Holyrood has to submit a response within three months.
Success for the SWA in the court action would mean the legislation would be scrapped.
Meanwhile, a side issue of media coverage was resolved at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. The UK government had asked that details be kept secret of a European Commission opinion that the legislation would breach EU trade laws. Lord Doherty refused the request, saying that the opinion was already in the public domain.
The case was adjourned overnight to allow Lord Wallace to consider seeking leave to appeal against Lord Doherty’s ruling.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 12 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: South east
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: West