European Court confirms illegality of MUP

The European Court of Justice has today confirmed that Scotland’s plan to introduce Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) of alcohol is illegal because it breaches EU trade laws.

european courtAgreeing with EU advocate general Yves Bot’s official opinion published in September this year that MUP contravenes EU laws if other options to tackle harmful drinking exist, such as increased taxation, the court has announced this morning that the MUP proposal is illegal and should be dropped.

According to Spirits Europe and the Scotch Whisky Association, the Scottish courts must now reflect on the implications of the ruling and all the evidence, before issuing a final judgment.

However, commenting on today’s ruling, Paul Skehan, director general of Spirits Europe said that it is now “time to move on”.

Continuing, he stated, “Instead of wasting more time debating the illegality of MUP, we believe it would be far better to discuss useful, legal ways of tackling the alcohol-related issues that persist, not only in Scotland, but around the EU.”

He added, “Tackling alcohol-related harm requires collective efforts for targeted actions – in partnership, not in conflict through the courts.”

Meanwhile, David Frost, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive said that ruling “settles EU law issues once and for all.”

Continuing he noted that today’s decision “opens the way to moving the debate on and allowing us to address alcohol misuse with practical measures that actually work. Alcohol-related deaths have fallen by a third over the last decade in Scotland, which suggests we are already on the right path. We remain committed to working closely with the Scottish Government and everyone else with an interest.”

The Scotch Whisky Association has for a longtime expressed its opposition to minimum unit pricing (MUP) for the following reasons:

  •  MUP will not tackle alcohol misuse effectively. Research for the Scottish Government shows it will not reduce the number of people drinking at hazardous and harmful levels.
  •  The Scottish Government’s own data demonstrates that alcohol sales have been falling in Scotland since 2009.
  •  Minimum pricing was first ruled illegal as a barrier to trade by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) more than 30 years ago. The Court has consistently ruled against minimum pricing since.
  •  MUP will set a precedent for equally ineffective and illegal measures by other countries which could severely damage the Scotch Whisky industry’s export markets and the Scottish economy.

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