Scotland’s highest civil court has rejected a legal challenge to the Scottish Government’s plan to implement a minimum price per unit of alcohol. The (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Bill, passed by MSPs in May last year, sets a floor price of 50p per unit for all alcoholic beverages sold off-licence in Scotland.

The Scottish Government was forced to put the measure on hold shortly after it was made law, subject to a petition submitted to the Court of Session from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and other European wine and spirits producers on the grounds that minimum pricing would target poor drinkers and breach European Union trade law. However, in a written statement following a judicial review of the matter, Lord Judge Doherty ruled that the measure is “not incompatible with EU law” as it is justified “on the grounds of the protection of the life andhealth of humans (Article 36)”.

The statement went on to accept the Scottish ministers’ prerogative to introduce minimum pricing as a measure compatible with the common organisation of the market relating to wines and other fermented products, and with Article 6(2) of Regulation (EC) 110/2008 relating to spirits. It also dismissed calls requesting the referral of questions concerning EU law to their Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling, saying it was “unnecessary and inappropriate” to do so.

Commenting on the ruling, IAS Director of Policy Katherine Brown said:

This is a victory for public health, which has quite rightly been given prominence over the profit motives of the global alcohol producers.

Today’s ruling provides yet more evidence to show that minimum unit pricing is an effective policy that will save lives and reduce the burden that alcohol poses on society.

We strongly urge the Westminster Government to honour its commitment to give full support to the Scottish Government in Europe on this issue, and to press ahead with its proposals to introduce minimum pricing in England and Wales.

The SWA has 21 days to appeal the decision from the date of this ruling (Friday 3rd May). You can read Lord Judge Doherty’s statement in full via this link.