Irish Spirits Association already preparing their case against minimum pricing
The Irish Spirits Association is already preparing a case to take to the European Court of Justice, on the grounds that the move violates EC law.
Scottish Ministers plan to introduce a minimum pricing on all alcohol sold in shops, so that cheap strong drink such as some cider and cut-price vodka is stopped.
Ministers are preparing to support a 40p per unit price on drink. If passed, a bottle of vodka – which contains 26 units of alcohol but can now be bought for less than £7 – would retail at a minimum of £10.40. Similarly, large bottles of cider, which can be bought for under £3, would more than double in price.
The SNP Government argues the moves can be passed on public health grounds because of the huge social cost of alcohol abuse in Scotland.
In a written answer to MEPs, Vice-President of the EC Gunter Verheugen said if the plans put imported drink at a disadvantage they would be deemed illegal under Article 28, which supports the free movement of goods.
Verheugen explained: "The court has ruled that national rules fixing retail prices for alcoholic beverages could constitute measures having an equivalent effect to quantitative restrictions on imports contrary to Article 28 EC."
His statement was supported by EC lawyers who wrote to Tory MEP Struan Stevenson last week. They state that if non-Scottish products are prevented from being supplied at a price lower than Scottish products, "the measure would violate ...EU internal market rules".