Wednesday 21 February 2018

Scottish price plans referred to Europe

Sam Griffin

Plans to introduce minimum pricing on alcohol in Scotland have been met with huge opposition and have been referred to the European Court of Justice with a decision due some time next year.

The Scottish parliament wants a charge of at least 50p per unit of alcohol in an effort to clampdown on the sale of cheap drink and excessive consumption - similar to the plans here.

A court in Edinburgh found that the proposals contained several complex legal issues around the free market and the ability of ministers to set prices to protect public health, and referred six questions of law to Europe.

Members of parliament, health professionals and the police have all supported the campaign. However, nine other European countries are opposed to the move, as well as the European Commission which has filed a submission to the court.

The Scotch Whisky Association, which has led the campaign against the policy, says minimum pricing is not "an evidence-based measure".

"It is a heavy-handed way of trying to encourage responsible drinkers to drink slightly more responsibly while doing nothing to help heavy drinkers insensitive to price," spokesman David Williamson said.

"Price fixing does not become good policy just because the motives are good: instead we should all focus on what has been actually proven to work."

It is expected there will be an advocate general's opinion on the case in 2015 and a full court ruling some time next year.

Irish Independent

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