THE ongoing legal battle over the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol has been referred to Europe, after Scottish judges requested a “preliminary ruling” from the European Court of Justice.
In a written ruling published today (April 30) Lord Eassie of the Court of Session in Edinburgh said judges had “come to the view that it is expedient and appropriate” for the court to seek guidance from its European counterpart on whether or not the Scottish Government’s minimum pricing plans contravene EU law.
The decision is the latest stage in a legal fight between the Scottish Government, which approved the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Bill in 2012, and a consortium led by the Scotch Whisky Association and several European drinks firms.
The Court of Session ruled last year that minimum pricing was legal, but the decision was appealed by the SWA. The appeal hearing was heard at the Court of Session earlier this year. Lord Eassie said there are aspects of European law in which “it would be of help to have the guidance of the Court of Justice of the European Law”.
David Frost, chief executive of the SWA, said the association is “pleased that the Court of Session in Edinburgh is referring the minimum unit pricing (MUP) case to the Court of Justice of the European Union”.
“From the outset we said that we believed MUP was contrary to European Union law and that it was likely in the end to go to the European Court,” he said.
“We also believe MUP would be ineffective in tackling alcohol misuse and would damage the Scotch whisky industry in the UK and overseas.”