Whisky body challenges minimum alcohol pricing

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A LEGAL challenge to the Scottish Government ’s plan for minimum pricing on alcohol kicks off this week in Edinburgh, with the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) claiming it would break UK and European Union law.

A petition for Judicial Review in the Court of Session is being launched on Tuesday by the trade body, along with SpiritsEurope and Comite Vins, its counterparts for the respective spirits and wine sectors in Europe.

The SWA said its legal case will be that minimum pricing would be  “in breach of the UK ’s European Union Treaty obligations as it would restrain trade ”. In a case expected to last up to eight days, it will contend that minimum pricing  “breaches the Act of Union that stipulates there must be a common market across the UK ”. Aidan O ’Neill QC will represent the SWA.

SWA chief executive Gavin Hewitt said:  “For more than 30 years the European Court of Justice has consistently found minimum pricing to be an illegal barrier to trade. If countries wish to raise the price of alcoholic drinks the court has ruled they can do so through other less trade restrictive means, such as tax or duty. ”

SWA ’s legal team will dispute Holyrood claims that Scotch whisky, as a  “premium product ”, won ’t be hit by minimum pricing.  “The Scottish Government ’s original analysis found that 85 per cent of blended Scotch whisky in the  ‘off trade ’ would be hit, harming producers and jobs, ” Hewitt added.