Industry and health campaigners react to the legal guidance by the Advocate General over the Scottish government’s plans for minimum pricing
David Frost, chief executive, Scotch Whisky Association
“We welcome the Advocate General’s opinion on minimum unit pricing (MUP) 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.”
Miles Beale, chief executive, WSTA
“The WSTA welcomes the Advocate General’s Opinion suggesting Minimum Unit Pricing could be illegal where less restrictive measures are available. We have always argued that Minimum Pricing would restrict the free movement of goods, competition and consumer choice, as well as failing to tackle irresponsible consumption by the minority that misuse alcohol. We look forward to seeing the final judgment.
”We recognise that the drinks industry needs to continue to play its part in tackling alcohol-related harm in Scotland and the rest of the UK; and we remain committed to working in partnership with all levels of government, including the Scottish Government, to address these issues in local communities. As an industry we aim to work cooperatively and build on recent successes in this area.”
Paul Skehan, director general of SpiritsEUROPE
“We welcome the Advocate General’s opinion. The opinion encourages us in our long-held view that MUP is neither proportionate nor necessary, and is, consequently, illegal under EU law. We welcome the statement of this important principle at European Union level since it affects every Member State. We await the Court of Justice’s final ruling early in 2016.
“Is it time to now move on? 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. Tackling alcohol-related harm requires collective efforts for targeted actions - in partnership, at local level. There are a range of other initiatives of proven effectiveness, not based on theoretical computer models.”
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister
“We welcome this opinion, in which the Advocate General confirms that minimum unit pricing is not precluded by EU law, but sets out tests that the national court has to apply.
“Importantly, this initial opinion indicates it will be for the domestic courts to take a final decision on minimum unit pricing. The Advocate General finds that the policy can be implemented if it is shown to be the most effective public health measure available.
“As such, the legal process is ongoing and we await a final response from the European Court of Justice, before the case returns to the Scottish courts.
“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. 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.”
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance
“Taxation alone cannot achieve the same impact as minimum unit pricing which targets the high-strength, low-cost products which cause the most harm.
”We welcome the good news that the Scottish Government is one step closer to implementing minimum unit pricing. The Scottish Government led the way on this policy and it is disappointing that it has been deliberately derailed by the alcohol industry which brought this legal challenge, undermining the will of a democratically elected government and costing more lives in the process. It is a terrible shame that so much time and money has been spent fighting a battle with big business determined to protect their profits at the expense of people’s health and wellbeing.
”The time has come for governments across the UK listen to the evidence and not be swayed by multinational companies with vested interests.”
Tom McCusker, managing director, of C&C Gleeson
“Minimum pricing is an important step in addressing the very specific but damaging problem of strong, cheap alcohol. It would be a lost opportunity for Ireland if it were not introduced.
“Although the majority of people enjoy alcohol responsibly, the availability of strong, cheap alcohol and its impact on a minority of people and their communities is concerning.
“We believe that there is no doubt and plenty of evidence to show that cheap alcohol is a driver of consumption for some people.
“Minimum unit pricing would be a brave but very useful step in tackling this misuse of alcohol.”
Alastair Campbell , managing director, Tennent Caledonian Breweries
“Minimum pricing is an important step in addressing the very specific but damaging problem of strong, cheap alcohol. It would be a lost opportunity for Scotland if it were not introduced.
“Although the majority of people enjoy alcohol responsibly, the availability of strong, cheap alcohol and its impact on a minority of people and their communities is concerning. We believe that there is no doubt and plenty of evidence to show that cheap alcohol is a driver of consumption for some people. Minimum unit pricing would be a brave but very useful step in tackling this misuse of alcohol.
“As the brewer of Tennent’s Lager and a range of other quality brands, we are part of the fabric of Scotland’s community and wholeheartedly support the responsible consumption of alcohol. For those reasons, we have backed minimum pricing proposals since 2011 – and we continue to do so.
“As always, but particularly in light of today, we encourage the Scottish Government to continue to show leadership. We pledge to support their aims and work with them on a wider strategy.”