The Scottish Government will "win hands down" if a challenge to its plans to bring in minimum pricing for alcohol ends up in the European Court, the Health Secretary predicted.

Alex Neil vowed the Scottish Government would "go the full mile" in contesting legal bids to halt the controversial measure.

He spoke out after it was reported five European wine-producing nations - France, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Bulgaria - had branded minimum pricing for alcohol as illegal, unfair and ineffective.

They argue that minimum unit pricing breaches European free trade law by discriminating against imported alcohol products.

Mario Moniz Barreto, secretary general of the Portuguese Spirits Association, also insisted: "There is no demonstration that this measure will have an effect on the people it is trying to protect."

But Mr Neil insisted the policy would "not be detrimental to trade either within Europe or internationally".

Holyrood has already passed legislation which seeks to introduce a minimum price for alcohol of 50p per unit, but this has faced challenges from both European wine and spirit producers and the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

In May, the Court of Session dismissed a legal challenge by the SWA to minimum pricing, saying then that "the measures were not incompatible with EU law".

Mr Neil said the challenge from the other European countries was "based on the false premise that this is about trying to erect barriers to trade".

Instead, he said that minimum pricing was "about dealing with the very specific problem we have of alcohol abuse in Scotland".

The Health Secretary told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "Within Europe we are allowed, if the measure is proportional, to deal with a social problem, you are allowed to introduce measures like minimum unit pricing.

"Our argument is this is a very proportional measure to deal with a very substantial problem."

He insisted that "the premise of these objections is entirely wrong" but said he would be "happy to engage in a charm offensive to explain to them that there is a social purpose to this measure, it is nothing to do with trying to restrict trade or trying to gain an unfair advantage".

Mr Neil said that research had showed that "minimum unit pricing targets the cheep booze, the cheap cider, the cheap vodkas, the cheap gins, which are the real source of the problem in Scotland".

In contrast, he said the policy would have "virtually no impact on quality products, like quality wines from France or Scotch whisky or quality vodka or things like that".

Regarding the legal challenges, the Health Secretary said: "We've already had round one in the Court of Session with the Scotch Whisky Association and the Court of Session considered the European law aspect of this, as well as Scots law. We won hands down."

With the SWA having pledged to take their fight against minimum pricing to the European Court of Justice, Mr Neil said: "We are prepared to take this the full way, to go the full mile, because we believe as a social measure this will help deal with this huge Scottish problem and take the lead in Europe in tackling the problem.

"It's the right thing to do. Therefore, our plan B is to stick with this till we win the day."

He hopes a final decision on whether or not the policy can be brought in would be made "some time next year", adding: "I honestly believe the quicker we introduce minimum unit pricing the better, particularly for many of our young people whose livers are being destroyed by the abuse of cheap drink."

Mr Neil said: "If we end up in the European Court, which I think at the end of the day may well happen, we believe if it does end up in the European Court we will win hands down."

Mr Barreto told BBC Radio Scotland that "part of our objection has to do with the fact that we perceive this measure as an ineffective measure to fight alcohol abuse or misuse".

He argued there was no evidence "that these types of measures, based on minimum pricing per unit, have any demonstrable effectiveness."

Mr Barreto, who was also speaking on Good Morning Scotland, stated: "We live in a free trade market area, the measure applied in one country is bound to have an effect on all the others.

"We have extreme opposition to measures we perceive to be ineffective and there is no demonstration that this measure will have an effect on the people it is trying to protect."

He also argued: "Even though the products I represent are high quality, they may have a lower price.

"This is one of the key points for their competitiveness in a very regulated, highly-taxed market such as the Scottish or the UK markets.

"This measure will impose a detrimental obstacle to entry of new products of quality, but which at the same time may be a more competitive price, to the Scottish market.

"The Portuguese government, along with several other governments in the European Union, has voiced their opposition against this measure, which could be perceived as a protectionist measure."