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Harvie joins attack over minimum pricing delay

THE whisky industry has been accused of risking public health for bigger ­profits by the Scottish Green Party.

Patrick Harvie, the party's co-convener, welcomed an open letter in yesterday's Herald which appealed to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) to drop its legal challenge against setting a minimum price for alcohol in Scotland.

Expressing his support for the letter, which was signed by 22 doctors, academics and charity leaders from across the UK, Mr Harvie said: "Charities and doctors are right to challenge the Scotch Whisky Association, and we can only hope public pressure mounts.

"Many of these companies are vastly profitable multinationals, not traditional independent distillers, and they seem all too willing to risk public health for bigger profits.

"The situation is another sad example of how corporate interests stifle democracy, from the historic tactics of big tobacco to the childish antics of Donald Trump."

The letter said a minimum price for alcohol would have been enforced a year ago if the SWA had not mounted a challenge to the policy agreed by the Scottish Parliament.

A judge ruled against the association, but it is appealing. The SWA says it has called for the case to be fast-tracked to the European Court of Justice to speed up the process, but the Scottish Government has refused to agree to this move.

The SWA believes the minimum pricing legislation is incompatible with European law and would not target harmful drinkers.

Mr Harvie said: "Two years on from minimum pricing being passed by Parliament it's clearer than ever we need to challenge the dominance of the drinks industry by big firms whose focus will always be profit.

"They overshadow the welcome growth of small, independent brewers and distillers who put quality ahead of volume sales, and genuinely benefit our local communities."

Scotch Whisky Association chief executive David Frost said minimum pricing was not based on concrete evidence. He added: "The right way forward is targeted help where there are problems, not blanket policies which penalise the majority of responsible drinkers."

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