EUROPE: SWA launches two-pronged minimum pricing legal challenge
The Scottish government is determined to press ahead with its plans for minimum pricing
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has launched a major European and domestic legal challenge to Scotland's plans for minimum pricing, backed by two other trade bodies.
A complaint has been lodged at the European Commission (EC) and a petition filed for a Judicial Review with Edinburgh's Court of Session, the SWA revealed today (19 July). Its petition to the Scottish court is also being backed by the European Spirits Organisation and the European Wine Committee.
After failing to enforce a minimum price in the last Parliament, the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) confirmed in May it intends to set a minimum alcohol price of GBP0.50 (US$0.80) per unit by next April.
The EC complaint argues that minimum pricing breaches EU trade rules and would "artificially distort trade in the alcoholic drinks market, contrary to EU law", the SWA said.
The Judicial Review is on the grounds that minimum pricing is "in breach of the UK's EU Treaty obligations and contrary to the terms of the Scotland Act 1998".
An SWA spokesperson would not speculate on how much the legal challenge might cost, but said: "We are funded by our members." SWA's members include Diageo, Pernod Ricard-owned Chivas Brothers and Beam Inc.
Other trade bodies across Europe are also looking at launching a challenge, the spokesperson added.
Gavin Hewitt, the SWA's chief executive, said the industry has been "left with no option" but to oppose the legislation.
Paul Skehan, the European Spirits Organisation's director general, said: "European law is clear - minimum pricing is an illegal barrier to trade."
This month, Ian Buxton takes a look at an idea that, should it come to fruition, will send shockwaves through the Scotch whisky industry. In Scotland, he notes, there seems to be water, water everywhe...
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