Minimum pricing case referred to EU court

30th April, 2014 by Amy Hopkins

The Scotch Whisky Association’s legal challenge against the Scottish government’s minimum pricing policy for alcohol has been referred to the European Court of Justice.

Minimum pricing challenge sent to EU court

The SWA’s legal case against Scotland’s minimum pricing policy has been referred to an EU court

Today, in Scotland’s Court of Session, Judge Lord Eassie ruled that the industry body’s argument that the Alcohol Minimum Pricing Scotland Act 2012 contravenes the European Union’s trading law should be assessed in the EU courts.

The SWA has been a vocal opponent to the proposed policy, which would see a minimum unit price of 50p implemented in Scotland.

SWA members took legal action after members of Scottish Parliament passed the policy in May 2012.

However, Judge Lord Doherty threw out the case in May last year, stating that the policy was not incompatible with EU rules.

Following the dismissal, the SWA lodged an appeal with Scotland’s Court of Session.

SWA members clam that the policy not only breaches EU law, it would also be “ineffective” in tackling alcohol misuse in Scotland and would instead penalise responsible drinkers as well as the drinks industry.

David Frost, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said:  “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.

“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.”

Delayed implementation

This recent judgement by the Court of Session means there could be a delay of up to two years before minimum can be introduced in Scotland.

Industry body Spirits Europe also welcomed the referral.

“We have called for MUP to be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union ECJ from the outset, believing that the question of its legality would always have to be decided there,” said Paul Skehan, director general of Spirits Europe.

“Whatever about the legality of MUP, we have always contested the likely efficacy of the measure. Therefore, in advances of the ECJ hearing, we will continue to work with all willing partners to develop and support campaigns aimed at really reducing alcohol-related harm.”

The UK Government scrapped plans for its own minimum pricing policy in July last year over concerns it would hit responsible drinkers.

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