Minimum Pricing and Human Happiness

AN OBSERVATION ON THE INTERVENTION OF ALCOHOL FOCUS SCOTLAND IN THE SCOTCH WHISKY ASSOCIATION’S JUDICIAL REVIEW OF THE MINIMUM PRICING (SCOTLAND) ACT 2012

[2012] CSOH 156

Lord Hodge has allowed Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) to intervene in the judicial review of the minimum pricing bill. AFS argued that there is evidence that the 2012 Act would be in the public interest. The Scotch Whisky Association judicial review is partly founded on the averment that there was no evidential basis for the Act.

Lord Hodge heard from the Petitioners that the intervention should be denied on a few grounds, including that AFS is funded, in part, by the Scottish Government. AFS had, however, indicated that the costs of their intervention would be mounted from charitable income and not their Government grant. He in turn has allowed them to submit a 5000 page report on why minimum pricing is in the public interest.

I was interested in one particular comment from Lord Hodge in the decision:

The industries which the petitioners represent include companies which make a substantial contribution to the national economy and their products when used responsibly contribute to human happiness. But the abuse of alcoholic drinks and the harm which the abusers cause to themselves and others is a matter of general public concern both in this jurisdiction and throughout the United Kingdom“.

This appears to me to neatly sum up what I see as a paradox of minimum pricing. Does the 2012 Act effectively get at the mischief aimed at, namely the adverse effects of irresponsible consumption; or are there other more targeted alternatives open to Holyrood which would not affect all consumers and at the same time avoid the EC resistance? Or, is it the case that all drinkers should be penalised because it is in the public interest to do so? The debate rages on and these weighing-up exercises are at the core.

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About Stephen McGowan

Leading Scottish licensing solicitor at TLT. Chairman of BII Scotland.
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