This is a live blog of the second and final day of the hearing of the appeal brought by the Scotch Whisky Association and others, concerning the lawfulness of the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol.  Please refresh the UKSC Blog homepage throughout the day in order to get the latest posts.  Today’s live blog team comprises Emma Boffey, Morag McClelland, Gregor Hayworth and Sarah McIvor, from CMS. 

1945: Day 2 Summary

The appeal has now concluded.  The Justices will now consider matters and issue their decision in due course.

This morning, we heard further from the Lord Advocate, who continued his submissions, which he started yesterday afternoon.  During the course of his submissions today, the Lord Advocate presented a vivid picture of what the Scottish Government says is Scotland’s acute problem with alcohol consumption, and in particular, “cheap alcohol”.  The Lord Advocate’s position was that the policy is targeted at hazardous and harmful drinkers, who are most at risk of alcohol related harm.  The Lord Advocate says the policy is focused on addressing the greatest harm, in a way which targets those most at risk.  His submission is that minimum unit pricing achieves this, whereas alternative measures, such as increasing tax, will disproportionately affect the moderate drinkers in the population, who the policy did not seek to target.

The Lord Advocate presented some startling statistics during the course of his submissions: he told the Court that the policy is anticipated to save 2,000 lives and 38,000 fewer alcohol related hospitalisations over twenty years.  He submitted that any balancing exercise in terms of the impact on EU trade should be considered against that.  In his submissions, the health benefits heavily outweigh any impact on EU trade. The Lord Advocate told the Court that he considers that a generalised increase in taxation cannot achieve the primary target of the legislation as effectively as minimum pricing.  In his submission, there is no alternative measure which would be equally as effective minimum pricing.

This afternoon, the Court heard from Philip Simpson QC, on behalf of the UK Government.  In his submission, there is significant uncertainty regarding the consequences of implementing any of the alternative measures suggested by the appellants and he submitted that it is doubtful whether such measures would achieve the aims of protecting hazardous and harmful drinkers.

Finally, the Court heard this afternoon from Aidan O’Neill QC, senior counsel for the appellants, who offered a reply to the submissions of the Scottish Government and UK Government.  He told the Court that the respondents had failed to satisfactorily answer his key question: why not tax?  In his submission, a less restrictive option is available, which can achieve what minimum unit pricing can, without distorting the market and while also being better at protecting the population as a whole.

Mr O’Neill QC concluded his submissions by noting that this case is not about preventing the Scottish Government tackling Scotland’s alcohol problem, but that it was about enforcing the law.  In his submission, the Scottish Government can and should consider the alternative option of taxation.

We hope you have enjoyed following the live coverage of this appeal on the UKSC Blog this week.  We will be posting more commentary about this case both pre- and post-judgment, so if you’ve enjoyed our commentary over the past few days do subscribe to receive updates on new posts.  Continue reading »