Last updated:

Whisky sector told to drop legal action


Public health campaigners have called on the Scotch Whisky Association to drop its ‘ill-judged and damaging’ legal action to try to scupper minimum unit pricing in Scotland.

The BMA, other bodies representing doctors and health professionals, and charities including Cancer Research UK and Children in Scotland are among the signatories of an open letter to the SWA by Alcohol Focus Scotland.

Last week, the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled for a second time that MUP was a legal, effective and proportionate measure after the matter was referred back to the Scottish courts by the European Court of Justice.

But the SWA has not ruled out a further appeal to the UK Supreme Court.

The letter points out that the Scottish Parliament had passed legislation on MUP four and a half years ago, and no MSP had voted against it.


Trade laws

The SWA and others had challenged the legislation on the basis that it was against trade laws, and was not the right way to tackle Scotland’s alcohol problems. But the letter adds: ‘In the time since you began your legal action, minimum unit pricing could have prevented hundreds of Scots from dying and thousands more from suffering alcohol-related ill health, injury or crime.’

The letter adds that the European Court had said it was primarily for the state to determine both the level of protection which it wished to afford to its citizens’ life and health and the means by which that level of protection could be achieved.

‘That is what the Scottish Parliament did by passing the MUP legislation,’ the letter adds. 

‘Now is the time for your companies to respect the will of the Scottish Parliament and the court’s decision and, at long last, to drop this ill-judged and damaging legal action.’

The SWA has said it will look in detail at the judgment and consult its members – which include multinational drinks companies as well as smaller distilleries – before taking a decision on whether to appeal.

Read more from the BMA on minimum unit pricing

Read more from Jennifer Trueland and follow on Twitter.