Drinks Industry Urged To Drop Legal Action Against Minimum Pricing

The drinks industry has been urged to drop "ill-judged and damaging'' legal action against the introduction of minimum pricing for alcohol in an open letter from health organisations.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh last week ruled against a challenge led by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), who argued minimum unit pricing is a breach of European Law.

The SWA is considering whether to appeal the decision at the UK Supreme Court in London.

MSPs passed legislation at Holyrood in 2012 to bring in minimum pricing, which would initially be set at 50p per unit.

An open letter from Alcohol Focus Scotland, signed by 14 other organisations and individuals including the British Medical Association and Alcohol Concern, calls on the SWA to ``respect the will of Parliament''.

The letter states: "In the time since you began your legal action, minimum unit pricing could have prevented hundreds of Scots from dying and thousands more from suffering alcohol-related ill health, injury or crime.

"We support the World Health Organisation position that alcohol producers have a limited role in alcohol strategy, restricted to their role as developers, producers, distributors, marketers and sellers of alcoholic beverages.

"The European Court of Justice ruling confirmed that it was primarily for the state to determine both the level of protection which it wished to afford to its citizens' life and health and the means by which that level of protection could be achieved. That is what the Scottish Parliament did by passing the MUP (minimum unit pricing) legislation.

"Now is the time for your companies to respect the will of the Scottish Parliament and the court's decision and, at long last, to drop this ill-judged and damaging legal action.''

The signatories of the letter are Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol, the Alcohol Health Alliance, Alcohol Concern, Cancer Research UK, Children in Scotland, Medics against Violence, Balance, the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance, Dr Peter Rice, honorary consultant psychiatrist at NHS Tayside, Dr Alastair Cook, chair of RCPsych in Scotland, and Professor Colin Drummond, chair of the faculty of addictions at the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

An SWA spokeswoman said: "We are studying the MUP judgment in detail in consultation with our members before deciding whether to appeal to the UK Supreme Court.

"As we said, we regret the Court of Session's decision and still believe MUP is not the most effective way to tackle alcohol misuse, and that the government, in partnership with the industry, should focus on measures that are working.''

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