THE Scottish Government will continue to make the case for minimum unit pricing of alcohol at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg today.

The court will hold an oral hearing this morning. EU member states will also have the opportunity to make representations on the Scottish Government’s proposal to introduce a 50p minimum price for a unit of alcohol.

Evidence heard at the hearing will help the court to produce a preliminary ruling on the policy, which will be issued later this year. That will then be referred to Edinburgh’s Court of Session, which will make its decision on the appeal lodged by parts of the alcohol industry.

Minimum unit pricing was passed unopposed by the Scottish Parliament in 2012. The Scotch Whisky Association mounted a legal challenge in the Court of Session, which found overwhelmingly in favour of the Scottish Government. However, this decision was appealed by the SWA and the appeal court sought advice from the European Court in 2014.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “In Scotland we drink far more than we did a generation ago, and alcohol consumption is almost a fifth higher than the rest of the UK. Heavy drinking places a heavy burden on society, not just by damaging health and causing premature death, but also by contributing to crime and disorder.

“Introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol is the best, most targeted way to tackle the affordability of cheap, strong alcohol consumed by heavy drinkers without penalising moderate drinkers. It will reduce the many harms caused by excessive drinking, as part of the broad range of actions we are taking. I’m confident that we have a strong case, and I’m proud that Scotland is leading the way in Europe on this important issue.”