The UK Supreme Court will be asked to rule on the legality of Scotland's legislation setting a minimum price for alcohol, the Scotch Whisky Association confirmed today.
The appeal will challenge last month's ruling by the Inner House that the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 is compatible with EU law and therefore within the powers of the Scottish Parliament. The legislation had been challenged by the Scotch Whisky Association and other alcohol producers from within the EU.
Lord President Carloway, Lord Menzies and Lord Brodie agreed that the test laid down on a reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union had been met, and that on the evidence before the court, less restrictive measures such as taxation would not produce the same protection of life and health.
Announcing the appeal, Julie Hesketh-Laird, Scotch Whisky Association acting chief executive, said: “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. We remain committed to working closely with the Scottish Government and everyone else who shares our common goal of tackling alcohol misuse. By working effectively in partnership we hope the long-term trend decline in alcohol-related harms in Scotland will continue.”
In response, Health Secretary Shona Robison described the decision as "deeply disappointing".
She commented: “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."
The Government, she added, remained determined to implement the policy as soon as possible, and was confident that the Supreme Court woould also find it to be lawful.