Will Scotland's Minimum Pricing on Alcohol Plan Go Ahead?

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The plan to set a minimum price for alcohol by the Scottish government has been put on hold after top lawyer says it would risk infringing EU law on free trade.

A legal fixed price on alcohol could only be justified to protect public health if no other solution is found, such as tax increases, said Yves Bot, general to the European court of justice.

Complaints regarding the imposed minium pricing have been received from the Scottish Whisky Assosiation (SWA) and 9 countries including France, Spain and Bulgaria. However the chances of the complaints being upheld by the European Court of Justice in Luxemburge is low as they tend to agree with decisions from the advocate general.

"I feel that, having regard to the principle of proportionality, it is difficult to justify the rules at issue, which appear to me to be less consistent and effective than an 'increased taxation' measure and may even be perceived as being discriminatory." Bot is quoted as saying in an Article in The Guardian.

The European Court of Justice were reported to have said that Bot was "of the opinion that such a system risks infringing the principle of the free movement of goods and would only be legal if it could be shown that no other mechanism was capable of achieving the desired result of protecting public health.

"In particular, the advocate general suggests that increasing taxation of alcohol could be an alternative and it would be for the Scottish government to prove that this was not a suitable means of curbing excessive consumption of alcohol."

Nicola Sturgeon took to Twitter this week to say that she believes Bot's opinion did not completely rule out a minimum pricing.

"While we must await the final outcome of this legal process, the Scottish government remains certain that minimum unit pricing is the right measure for Scotland to reduce the harm that cheap, high-strength alcohol causes our communities," she said.

"In recent weeks statistics have shown that alcohol-related deaths are rising again and that consumption may be rising again after a period of decline. We believe minimum unit pricing would save hundreds of lives in coming years and we will continue to vigorously make the case for this policy."

The ECJ will now refer the case back to the court of session for a final decision on the matter.

Source: The Guardian