AN SNP Cabinet Secretary benefited from £1,000 of hospitality from one of the strongest opponents of Government policy on the minimum pricing of alcohol.

Fiona Hyslop was at the Diageo table for a recent charity event fronted by President Obama, despite the global booze giant having a key role in the trade group that is trying to scupper the flagship health plan.

Holyrood approved legislation for a minimum price per unit of alcohol in 2012, which SNP Ministers said would improve health by targeting cheap and strong drinks.

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However, the policy has been tied up in court challenges amid claims by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), which represents drinks companies, that it breaches European law.

The SWA has argued that the policy could restrict the free movement of goods and insists there are "less restrictive" ways of influencing alcohol prices.

The trade body unsuccessfully challenged minimum pricing in the Court of Session in 2013, after which an appeal was lodged with the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

According to the ECJ ruling, the legislation might break EU law but added that it was "ultimately for the national court to determine".

A Scottish court again backed the policy last year, but in December judges allowed the SWA to go to the Supreme Court to challenge the ruling. Supreme Court judges are currently considering the appeal.

The SWA has dozens of members but Diageo, which is responsible for household brands such as Smirnoff, Gordon’s gin and Guinness, has a significant presence in the trade body.

The firm has three places on the SWA’s 16 member council and, given its £15bn global revenue, is one of the association’s biggest names.

As a sponsor of the Obama event, Diageo received a table at the dinner and invited senior figures in the business, media and political worlds. One of the guests was SWA chief executive Karen Betts.

According to her register of interest, Hyslop, who is the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, was also at the Diageo table: “I attended the ‘Remarks by the Honourable Barack H Obama’ event in Edinburgh as a guest of Diageo plc.”

The declaration added: “The cost of hospitality for the evening was £1,000 which was met by Diageo.”

In evidence to a Holyrood committee Diageo stated that minimum unit pricing would “penalise the majority of the Scottish population who drink responsibly” and be “ineffective in tackling alcohol misuse among the minority”.

Hyslop was the only politician at the Diageo table, but other MSPs were at the event after being invited by other organisations.

Tory MSP Brian Whittle received a ticket from the Halo Project, while Macklin Enterprise Partnerships Ltd invited Conservative Murdo Fraser and Scottish Government Minister Michael Russell.

All proceeds from the Obama event went to the Hunter Foundation to be distributed to Scottish charities.

Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: “Minimum pricing is an extremely important policy and the SWA’s attempt to scupper it has been shameful. While that conflict continues, perhaps it would have been better all round if the government had said ‘No we can’t’ when the Obama invitation came in from one of the big multinationals involved in the action.”

A Scottish Conservative spokesman said: “People might be surprised to see Fiona Hyslop accepting hospitality from those who are opposed to the SNP’s legislation on minimum pricing. Hopefully she used the opportunity to discuss their concerns about the policy.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “This was a charity event with all proceeds invested in supporting young people in Scotland. The Culture Secretary was invited by Diageo to the Hunter Foundation Charity event following her involvement in the sale of the historic Monarch of the Glen painting to the National Galleries of Scotland.”

A Diageo spokesperson said: “As one of Scotland’s leading companies, we engage regularly with the Scottish Government across the whole range of areas where we make a major contribution to the Scottish economy, including manufacturing, exports, environmental sustainability and tourism. The dinner with Barack Obama was a celebration of Scottish civic life, focused on raising money for Scottish charities and we are pleased to have contributed positively to that.”