Tobacco display ban in Scotland to begin in April 2013
A ban on the display of cigarettes in Scotland's shops will come into force in April 2013 after a tobacco firm lost its legal fight to stop the move.
Imperial Tobacco challenged Scottish ministers at the Supreme Court.
A panel of five judges unanimously ruled against the company, saying its challenges were not well-founded.
The Scottish government said the judgement cleared the way for the ban's introduction, which it plans for spring next year.
A spokesman for Imperial Tobacco said: "Naturally we are disappointed with today's judgement as we believe our legal argumentation was strong. We will now await the publication of the Scottish display ban regulations and consider our options."
MSPs passed the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) two years ago, allowing for a ban on cigarette displays and vending machines to come into force.
But the change was held up when Imperial Tobacco took the matter to court, firstly to the Court of Session, then to the Inner House and finally to the Supreme Court.
The company had claimed the act was outside the competence of Holyrood as sales supply and product safety were matters reserved to Westminster.
The ban is supposed to remove the temptation for young people to take up smoking.
End Quote Michael Matheson Minister for Public Health
I have always been clear on the need to allow retailers sufficient time to make the necessary changes and so we have decided that April 2013 represents a fair timescale for implementing the display ban”
In delivering the judgement, Lord Hope said: "The only question is whether any of the particular rules that were laid down in the 1998 Act by which it is to be determined whether or not a provision is outside legislative competence have been breached.
"That is not to say that the question is easy to answer or unimportant. But the exercise that has to be carried out is essentially one of statutory construction."
He went on to say that "none of the challenges" of Imperial Tobacco were well-founded.
Lord Hope added: "Sections 1 and 9 of the 2010 Act are not outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament. I would dismiss the appeal and affirm the First Division's interlocutor."
The ban on tobacco product displays is already in force in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Scotland's Minister for Public Health, Michael Matheson, said the judgement removed the "final barrier" to the act being implemented.
He added that the government would be looking to recover the legal fees that had been incurred to taxpayers as a result of the court case.
Mr Matheson said: "Given that this legislation was passed over two years ago and is already in force in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are strong arguments to introduce it immediately.
"However, I have always been clear on the need to allow retailers sufficient time to make the necessary changes and so we have decided that April 2013 represents a fair timescale for implementing the display ban.
"The introduction of the ban on vending machines will be in line with our commitment to provide a four-month implementation period."
Scottish Labour's Richard Simpson said he was delighted that the "last ditch and desperate appeal" by Imperial Tobacco had been "thrown out" by the Supreme Court.
He added: "While the decreasing number of Scots smoking is to be welcomed, removing tobacco from open view is a critical step in helping to reduce the sense that these products are as acceptable as others."
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the Supreme Court's "rejection of Imperial Tobacco's argument is good for health in Scotland".