Edinburgh’s Court of Session ruled yesterday that an appeal backed by trade bodies such as the Scotch Whisky Association and spiritsEurope against introducing a MUP for alcohol should be heard in Europe.
The decision follows a Court of Session decision a year ago that the Scottish Parliament’s plan to impose a 50 Pence MUP could go ahead under its Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act which was passed in June 2012.
The Scottish Parliament believes that MUP is a necessary measure to help tackle alcohol misuse there.
“From the outset we said that we believed MUP was contrary to European Union law” commented the Scotch Whiskey Association’s Chief Executive David Frost, “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.”
Paul Skehan, Director General of spiritsEurope stated, "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.
"Whatever about the legality of MUP, we have always contested the likely efficacy of the measure. Therefore, in advance of the ECJ hearing, we’ll continue to work with all willing partners to develop and support campaigns aimed at really reducing alcohol-related harm."
According to Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil, "The evidence shows that Minimum Unit Pricing is an effective way to tackle alcohol-related harm. This is because it targets heavy drinkers in particular as they tend to drink the cheap, high-strength alcohol that will be most affected by the policy.
"That is why I welcome the referral to European Court of Justice. Scotland is leading the way in Europe. We are confident of our case and look forward to presenting it in the European Court of Justice.
"While it is regrettable that this means we will not be able to implement MUP sooner, we’ll continue our ongoing and productive dialogue with EU officials."
However it was due to lack of evidence that such a policy would work that the UK Government shelved plans for MUP last year although some commentators are now saying that the Prime Minister David Cameron may be about to take another look at it.
You can read the Opinion of the Court of Session here: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2014CSIH38.html