The law on minimum pricing for alcohol is being challenged in the courts by the drinks industry.
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is launching legal action against the Scottish Government's legislation which would see a minimum unit price of 50p.
The association, which represents the whisky industry in Scotland, is lodging a complaint with the European Commission and pursuing action through the Court of Session in Scotland.
Holyrood passed the Alcohol Minimum Pricing Bill in May, which the Scottish Government said is aimed at helping to address alcohol misuse.
The SWA says it believes the measure is illegal, ineffective and will damage the Scotch whisky industry.
Chief executive Gavin Hewitt said the association's action was backed by other UK and European Union wine, beer and spirits organisations.
The SWA's complaint to the EC centres on the argument that minimum pricing breaches EU trade rules. It says the measure would artificially distort trade in the alcoholic drinks market, contrary to EU law.
The association's action at the Court of Session argues that minimum pricing is in breach of the UK's EU treaty obligations, and exceeds the Scottish Parliament's powers under the Scotland Act 1998 because it relates to the price of goods and services, reserved to Westminster.
Mr Hewitt said the association is also concerned that other countries are likely to adopt measures similar to minimum pricing, using protection of health as justification, in order to target imported products such as Scotch whisky.
"We have widespread support across Europe in opposing minimum pricing. We are not alone," Mr Hewitt said.
"Many organisations and companies will either be supporting our complaint to the European Commission or lodging their own complaint. Our legal action in Scotland at the Court of Session in Edinburgh is being joined by the European Spirits Organisation and Comité Vins (CEEV), the wine producers organisation in Europe.
"We consistently argued that minimum unit pricing will be ineffective in tackling alcohol misuse. Secondly it will penalise responsible drinkers and put even more pressure on their household budgets."
Scottish Government figures show that 73% of alcohol sold in the "off trade" will have to go up in price, Mr Hewitt said.
He added: "Scottish ministers repeatedly claimed during the parliamentary process that, as a premium product, Scotch Whisky would not be affected by minimum pricing. The truth is now out. The Scottish Government's own final impact assessment reveals 85% of blended Scotch whisky will be increased in price as a result of a minimum unit price of 50p."
It was thought minimum pricing could come into effect as early as next April after the legislation was passed by MSPs. However, this date could now be delayed due to the legal action.
The complaint to the EC could take around 12 months to be processed, while an initial hearing at the Court of Session is anticipated to take place in the autumn, Mr Hewitt added.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said the Scottish Government regretted the SWA's decision to mount a legal challenge and would vigorously oppose it.
She said: "Minimum pricing was passed overwhelmingly by the Scottish Parliament and has the strong backing of those who work daily with the effects of alcohol misuse: our doctors, nurses, the police and public health experts. It is a policy that also has growing support across the UK and internationally. Therefore, while we acknowledge their right to do so, we regret the decision of the SWA to challenge minimum pricing in the courts.
"We inserted a sunset clause into the legislation in recognition of the fact that some people remain sceptical. A sunset clause allows the policy to be tested in practice and for parliament to take a longer-term decision based on actual experience. We consider that to be a reasonable and proportionate way to proceed.
"Accordingly, we believe that it is time to allow the policy to be implemented rather than held up in the courts. We firmly believe that minimum pricing meets the legal tests required and we will vigorously defend this legal challenge, just as we did on asbestos and are doing on tobacco. Notwithstanding our difference of opinion on minimum pricing, we will continue to work constructively with the SWA in support of the whisky industry which is both important and valuable for Scotland."
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