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European Court says minimum unit pricing may be illegal

Published:  03 September, 2015

The Scotch Whisky Association has welcomed an opinion from the advocate general of the European Court of Justice that minimum unit pricing may be illegal.

Yves Bot said that minimum pricing should only be allowed where it could be shown that public health benefits can't be delivered by any other means, including raising taxes.

The SWA launched a legal challenge after the Scottish government passed legislation to introduce a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol in 2012.

The opinion offered by Bot is not binding and the court is still to deliver its final judgement, a process that could take another six months.

Implementation of the law in Scotland was postponed pending a ruling on the legal challenge.

SWA chief executive David Frost said: "We welcome the advocate general's opinion on minimum unit pricing of alcohol.

"The opinion encourages us in our long-held view that MUP is illegal when there are less trade-restrictive measures available.

"We await the Court of Justice's final ruling.

"It remains important to address alcohol misuse with a range of other measures of proven effectiveness. We will continue to work closely with the Scottish government and other stakeholders on this.

"There is a long-term trend of falling alcohol-related deaths and harms in Scotland which suggests that measures in place are working."

A report from NHS Health Scotland this week suggested that the trend may have bottomed out, with figures showing a 1% increase in per capita consumption in 2014.