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Scottish whiskey makers lose first round of fight over minimum prices

May 4, 2013 at 1:05 AM

EDINBURGH, Scotland, May 4 (UPI) -- A Scottish judge dismissed arguments Friday by whiskey manufacturers that setting a minimum price for alcohol violates European trade regulations.

Justice Raymond Doherty of the Supreme Courts of Scotland upheld the Scottish Parliament's action, The Guardian reported. Doherty said legislators have the power to take action to protect public health.

The government has proposed a minimum price of 14 pounds ($22) a bottle for whiskey and 4.69 pounds ($7.30) for wine. The law would be the first in the European Union setting minimum alcohol prices.

"Minimum unit pricing will target cheap alcohol relative to strength that is favoured by hazardous and harmful drinkers and which contributes to much of the alcohol-related harm we see in Scotland," Alex Neil, the Scottish health secretary said.

The Scotch Whisky Association promised to appeal. The association has the support of two European wine and spirits trade groups, and the case is eventually expected to be decided by the European Court of Justice no earlier than 2015.

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