Minimum pricing is illegal and misguided, says Gavin Hewitt
This week the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) announced it would be taking action in Europe and in the Scottish courts to challenge the Scottish Government’s minimum unit pricing (MUP) legislation.
It is regrettable that one of Scotland’s leading industries finds itself taking legal action against its own government, but we had no option. We agree that alcohol misuse must be tackled. We have worked with the government, medical community and others on initiatives to tackle alcohol misuse and we will continue to do so.
Alcohol-related harms have begun to decline in the last few years, possibly as a result of earlier initiatives. We believe we should build on this positive trend rather than launch new laws that are illegal and will not work.
MUP will be ineffective in tackling alcohol misuse, will penalise responsible drinkers is illegal and will damage the whisky industry.
For 30 years the European Court has ruled that minimum pricing breaches EU rules. It would artificially distort trade and is contrary to EU law.
The SWA is also concerned that, if MUP were permitted, other countries would adopt similar measures and use a “protection of health” justification to target imported Scotch whisky. Such measures would damage the industry’s exports and undermine the government’s ambitions for an export-led economic recovery.
Scotland must address the harmful use of alcohol, but policies should be targeted. Some 30 per cent of those who drink consume 80 per cent of the alcohol sold. The problem is clear.
• Gavin Hewitt is chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association