On 24-25 July 2017, the UK Supreme Court will hear the much anticipated appeal brought by the Scotch Whisky Association, spiritsEUROPE and CEEV against the Scottish Ministers, regarding their plans to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol in Scotland.
The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 introduces a requirement that ‘Alcohol must not be sold … at a price below its minimum price’, in an effort to address increased consumption. The Scottish Ministers have prepared a draft order specifying a minimum price per unit of 50 pence but neither the 2012 Act nor the order have been brought into force pending this legal challenge.
The Scotch Whisky Association and others argue that the new provision falls foul of European Union law. They argue that it is a disproportionate measure, an unlawfu restriction on free movement of goods and also restricts the proper functioning of the Common Agricultural Policy on the production, marketing and sale of wine. They will argue that alternative pricing measures would be less disruptive to free trade and competition across the EU single market, yet still be effective in achieving the Scottish Government’s aims to protect public health.
The case has a lengthy procedural history before the Courts. At first instance, the petition for judicial review was refused, a decision which was then appealed. The case was then subject to a preliminary reference from the Court of Justice of the EU, before the First Division of the Inner House of the Court of Session refused the appeal in light of that reference.
The appeal before the UK Supreme Court will be heard by a bench of seven.