In the news – a case to watch: Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol *UPDATE*

Booze
© Copyright Dave Morris and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

LATEST UPDATE:

In a statement the Scottish Government has welcomed the ruling of the 21st of October 2016 by the Court of Session, confirming their previous ruling, that the Scottish Government’s intention to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol is legal (Scotch Whisky Association v Lord Advocate [2016] CSIH 77).

Read the full judgement here

This may not be the end of the matter however, as in a statement released following the judgement, David Frost, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association said:

“We will study the details of the judgement and consult our members before deciding on next steps, including any possible appeal to the UK Supreme Court.”

See the full statement here

See original posts and previous updates below:

In 2012 the Scottish Government passed legislation to introduce minimum pricing unit pricing for alcohol as part of its strategy to reduce alcohol consumption and the harm associated with over consumption. The minimum unit price was set at 50p

The Scotch Whisky Association challenged the legality of this. (The Scotch Whisky Association v Lord Advocate 2013 S.L.T. 776). This legal bid was rejected. However, this decision has been appealed on the grounds that it breaches EU law as it would be a barrier to the free movement of goods. The Court of Session made a request for a preliminary ruling from the European Court of Justice in July 2014.

UPDATE: On the 3rd of September 2015 the Advocate General issued his opinion that minimum unit pricing would only be legal under EU law if it could be shown that there is no other mechanism available to the Scottish Government that could achieve their desired public health benefits. Advocate General Bot also set out tests that national courts would have to apply when making their decision. Advocate General Bot’s opinion can be read in full here:

LATEST UPDATE: A press release  on the judgement of the Court of Justice on 23rd December 2015 states that the Court “considers that the effect of the Scottish legislation is significantly to restrict the market, and this might be avoided by the introduction of a tax measure designed to increase the price of alcohol instead of a measure imposing a minimum price per unit of alcohol”

Read the full judgement here.

In her response to the ruling, Shona Robison, the Scottish Government Health Secretary said:

“Scottish Government remains certain that minimum unit pricing is the right measure for Scotland. We believe it is the most effective mechanism for tackling alcohol misuse and reducing the harm that cheap, high-strength alcohol causes our communities”

For more of her response, click here.

The Scottish Whisky Association’s chief executive stated:

“The Court has confirmed that minimum unit pricing (MUP) is a restriction on trade, and that it is illegal to choose MUP where there are less restrictive ways of achieving the same end.”

Click here for more from the Scotch Whisky Association.

This ruling by the Court of Justice does not end the case.  The Court of Session asked for this ruling on the interpretation of European Law to help them come to a decision.  The case now goes back to the Court of Session to consider this ruling along with all the evidence.

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