12 Sep 2012
The European Commission is set to take a view on the legality of alcohol minimum pricing following a seminar in Strasbourg today.
The event, hosted by the Scottish Conservatives, heard of the internal and external market implications of the recently-passed legislation.
A range of key industry figures spoke at the event, which was attended by the chairman of the European Parliament’s internal market committee and the chairman of the European Parliament Wine Intergroup.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman and deputy leader Jackson Carlaw MSP said:
“We voted for the introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol in Scotland, we want it to succeed and the public health arguments must be reiterated.
“We took steps during the passage of the minimum pricing legislation to ensure firstly that it is consistent with our market obligations, and secondly to ensure that the success or otherwise of this measure is robustly assessed after its introduction.
“This was the bases of the two concessions we obtained from the Scottish Government – a sunset clause and the voluntary notification of this measure to the EC.
“What we heard today from key industry figures is that this measure will likely have important impacts on the complex series of free trade agreement negotiations currently underway in the EU.
“These were not addressed in the Scottish Parliament in any depth, and now the EC has a difficult decision to make on the legality or otherwise of this proposal.”
Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson said:
“The industry representatives who spoke at the seminar today tackled many of the complex trade issues arising from the minimum unit pricing legislation recently passed by the Scottish Parliament.
“They spoke of the internal market regulations and external trade negotiations which this measure is likely to impact.
“It is a decision for the EC if these impacts can legitimately be offset on the basis of the public health justification offered by the Scottish Government.
“What is clear from the seminar today is that this is not going to be an easy decision for the European Commission.
“The trade impacts are complex and significant, and the measure proposed clearly does discriminate against certain types of alcohol, and not necessarily those that the keenest advocates of this measure would like to see affected by this measure.
“Whether the public health justification offered by the Scottish Government, and agreed by the Scottish Parliament, is sufficient to override these trade concerns is a decision for the European Commission, and perhaps ultimately the European Court of Justice, to make.”