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UK: SWA "expects" legal challenge over minimum pricing

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The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has told just-drinks it “expects” a legal challenge to be launched against Scotland's plans for minimum pricing, but would not be drawn on whether the trade body itself will launch action.

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The Scottish Parliament voted through the final stage of the Bill today (24 May), which will allow the ruling SNP government to press forward with its plan to set a minimum unit price of GBP0.50. However, it is understood that the parliament will then have to notify the European authorities of its plans and a Europe-wide consultation will launch next month.

The earliest that minimum pricing is expected to become law is next April. 

“We have never said whether we will take a legal challenge,” said Rosemary Gallagher, the SWA's communications manager.

“We expect legal challenges from overseas. It could come from anyone – it could be a company, a consortium or a trade body”.

However, Gallagher refused to be drawn on whether the SWA would launch its own legal challenge. Diageo, an SWA member, is among the majority of drinks firms opposed to the plans.

Scottish publican trade group the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, meanwhile is fully supportive of the controversial plans. 

Lawyer Caroline Loudon, head of licensing and gambling for Lindsays, told The Scotsman newspaper this week she thought the new system is “unworkable”.

“England are proposing a 40p minimum price per unit – which means we are going to have a dual market in the UK,” she said. “I think this is a restriction of trade under EU law and that it is illegal and I think this is likely to be challenged in the European courts.”


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