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Drink battle goes back to court

Whisky distillers to appeal against price ruling

BenRiach whiskyScotch whisky distillers are to continue the fight against government plans to impose minimum pricing on alcohol.

The powerful Scotch Whisky Association has decided to appeal against the ruling of the Court of Session which gave its backing to the Scottish government’s legislation to hike the price of drinks.

Today Julie Hesketh-Laird, SWA’s 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.”

The Scottish government introduced a law to raise the price of alcohol as part of its attempts to curb drink-related health problems and aggressive behaviour.

It has been making plans to introduce the measure as soon as possible.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “The Scotch Whisky Association’s decision to appeal against last month’s emphatic ruling from the Court of Session is deeply disappointing.

“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.”

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