News In Focus
Alcohol Focus Scotland can intervene in minimum price case
5 October 2012
A charity that acts as a pressure group in relation to alcohol policy has been given leave to intervene in the legal challenge to the minimum pricing legislation, despite opposition.
Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) was given permission by Lord Hodge in the Court of Session to lodge a written submission of up to 5,000 words, plus supporting documents, in the petition for judicial review by the Scotch Whisky Association and two European bodies representing the alcohol industry, alleging the illegality of the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012.
Opposing the application, the petitioners accepted that the petition raised a matter of public interest, but argued that AFS received a significant part of its funding from the Scottish Government and that it was not truly independent: it was not clear how it would supplement the arguments for the Scottish and UK Governments; and that in any event AFS's intervention should be confined to a demonstration that there was evidence that the 2012 Act would have public health benefits.
Lord Hodge said that the rule of court permitting such interventions should not be misused and it was helpful that AFS had placed limits on the method of its proposed intervention. It was not significant that AFS received substantial public funding, as its funds were spent on its charitable activities and it had operated in recent years with an annual deficit. AFS had committed itself to using other resources to supply the £3,000 it intended to spend on its intervention.
It was also relevant in support of the intervention that the issues raised in the judicial review application were of general public importance; that there is a public interest in the resolution of those issues; that AFS had no private interest in the outcome of that application; that the intervention would not impose a significant extra burden on the petitioners; and that AFS would be acting reasonably in not making its intervention in the absence of the order which it sought.
It was appropriate also to make an order providing for no liability in expenses in relation to the intervention, despite the petitioners' argument that any protection should take the form of a cap on liability rather than its outright exclusion.
A hearing on the petition is set down for six days from 23 October.
Click here to view the opinion.