So, somewhat inevitably, the Scottish Government‘s minimum alcohol pricing laws have been challenged by the booze industry.
Specifically, the Scotch Whisky Association and two European bodies which represent producers of spirit drinks and the wine industry and trade are petitioning for judicial review of the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012.
The basis of the challenge to the Act is on two grounds:
- the Act is outwith the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, and
- that there is no evidence for the proposition that imposing minimum pricing would reduce harmful consumption of alcohol or improve public health.
The judicial review was heard at the end of October, but with a decision yet to be issued, but in this decision by Lord Hodge the charity Alcohol Focus Scotland have been permitted to intervene in the case in the public interest.
The court allowed AFS to intervene by way of a written submission (not exceeding 5,000 words) and granted an order which protected them from liability to expenses – on the basis that they would not intervene at all unless they had no risk of an award of expenses being made against them.
AFS receive substantial funding from the Scottish Government and so it was argued by the petitioners that they were not truly independent. However, they indicated that did not intend to spend grant income on the intervention, rather they would spend money raised by charitable donations – and only £3,000 at that. This reassurance was enough for Lord Hodge.
It remains to be seen if the intervention will have an impact of the final decision, but my prediction is that the petition will fail and then on to the Inner House. Let’s see…