Alcohol price fight goes to UK Supreme Court

The drinks industry is to fight a Court ruling which backs the introduction of minimum alcohol price in Scotland.

Shona Robison had called on drinks industry to abandon court fight

The Scotch Whisky industry says Scotland's Court of Session did not "properly review" the proposal's compatibility with EU law when it made its judgement last month. It will now take its fight to the UK Supreme Court and wants a decision reached quickly.Health secretary Shona Robison branded the move "deeply disappointing" after Scotland's Court of Session ruled last month that the measure could be introduced. The legislation was passed in 2012 at Holyrood with the aim of tackling Scotland's unhealthy relationship with alcohol, but has been locked in court battles ever since.Julie Hesketh-Laird, Scotch Whisky Association acting chief executive, said today: “Having carefully considered the ruling from the Court of Session on minimum unit pricing of alcohol, and reflected on our options, we have decided to appeal to the UK Supreme Court."This is not a decision we have taken lightly. It comes after wide consultation with our member companies and other parties to the case to see whether there is an alternative way forward. "However, given our strong view that minimum pricing is incompatible with EU law and likely to be ineffective, we now hope that our appeal can be heard quickly in the UK Supreme Court. “Having studied the ruling, we believe the Scottish court has not properly reviewed the legislation’s compatibility with EU law as required by the European Court’s judgment."

The Supreme Court is the last option for the drinks industry to appeal the decision.The 50p per unit proposed by Scottish ministers would mean a bottle of spirits would cost at least £14 and cheap, strong cider could double in price.Ms Robison said: “The Scotch Whisky Association’s decision to appeal against last month’s emphatic ruling from the Court of Session is deeply disappointing.

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“Their seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court is now the only stumbling block to minimum unit pricing being introduced. Of course, it is not yet inevitable that the appeal would proceed all the way to the Supreme Court.

“I think the SWA may want to consider that minimum unit pricing was passed with the overwhelming support of the Parliament, has been tested in Europe, and has now been approved twice in the Scottish courts.

“We remain committed to ongoing dialogue with the alcohol industry. Should the SWA drop their appeal, and accept that the time has now come to implement this measure that will save lives, they could expect very strong support from across Scotland.

“Minimum unit pricing is one of a range of measures we are implementing to reduce alcohol-related harm, and we will be introducing a refreshed Alcohol Framework next year.

“We remain determined to implement this policy as soon as possible, and we’re confident that, like the Court of Session, the Supreme Court will find the policy to be lawful.”