Whisky makers challenge Scotland's alcohol pricing plans

Scottish whisky manufacturers have launched legal action against plans to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol.

Scotland’s health secretary Nicola Sturgeon pledged to fight the challenge, saying the Scottish government believed the plans met necessary legal requirements.

The Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) has lodged a complaint with the European Commission and filed a petition for judicial review with the Scottish court of session.

The SWA said that the Scottish government’s minimum unit pricing would breach the UK’s EU Treaty obligations and artificially distort the alcoholic drinks market. The association said the policy also ran contrary to the terms of the Scotland Act 1988.

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish acknowledged that the SWA has a right to challenge the decision, but regretted its decision to do so.

‘The Scottish government believes that minimum pricing will save lives and reduce the harm caused by alcohol misuse,’ she said. ‘It is a targeted policy and will not penalise those who drink responsibly.

Ms Sturgeon said a sunset clause had been inserted into the legislation in recognition of the fact that some people remain sceptical. This would allow the policy to be tested in practice and for parliament to take a longer term decision based on actual experience, she said.

‘We consider that to be a reasonable and proportionate way to proceed. Accordingly we believe that it is time to allow the policy to be implemented rather than held up in the courts,’ she said.

She added: ‘We firmly believe that minimum pricing meets the legal tests required and we will vigorously defend this legal challenge, just as we did on asbestos and are doing on tobacco.

‘Notwithstanding our difference of opinion on minimum pricing, we will continue to work constructively with the SWA in support of the whisky industry, which is both important and valuable for Scotland.’

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