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Alcohol minimum-pricing: Whisky Association legal challenge fails

Plans by the Scottish Parliament to introduce a 50p per unit minimum price for alcohol remain on track to becoming law, after a legal challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association was dismissed, reports the BBC.

The Scottish Parliament is bidding to become the first in the UK to introduce a minimum price for alcohol, in a bid to tackle the country's significant alcohol-related issues.

The proposal is based on data from the University of Sheffield, which concluded that a minimum unit price could cut spending on treating alcohol-related health problems and could also reduce the number of deaths from alcohol.

Opponents argue that a minimum price will not deter problem drinking and will instead simply impose a further tax on those who already drink responsibly.

Fearful of impact of the policy on sales, the Scotch Whisky Association launched a legal challenge against the proposal, saying that it would breach European laws on competition and impose unfair market conditions.

However, dismissing the claim, Lord Doherty said that the policy was within the power of Scottish ministers and was not in contravention of EU law.

"The court ruled that the Acts of Union were not an impediment to the minimum pricing measures. The court also decided that the measures were not incompatible with EU law," he said in a Court of Session hearing.

It is highly likely that lawyers for the Scotch Whisky Association will appeal the decision to a higher court and have said previously they would take their fight to the European Courts if necessary. They have 21 days to lodge their appeal.

If successful, the proposals will see the minimum price of a bottle of wine rise to £4.69 and the cheapest four-pack of lager priced at £3.52. A standard 70cl bottle of 40% spirit will cost £14.

The Scottish Government is pleased with the outcome. Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: "I hope that a policy that will save lives can now be implemented."


Minimum pricing: Challenge to Scottish alcohol legislation fails (BBC News)