In an earlier article we reported on the current status of the Scotch Whisky Association’s challenge to the minimum pricing legislation (“MUP”), the Inner House of the Court of Session having remitted the case to the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”). We described that as a sensible move, considering the importance of the case.
Just how important has been emphasised by the latest developments. The ECJ has asked European Union governments, trade bodies, and other interested parties to present any submissions of opinion before the end of October. These will be taken into account before the judges deliver their ruling, possibly in the first half of next year. This unusual step reflects the strongly held view among some that a policy such as MUP may distort trade between member states, one of the cornerstones of the EU itself. Those in favour of the move, including most of the medical profession, point out that very significant increases in alcohol consumption, and therefore alcohol related harm, have coincided with a significant decrease in the price of alcohol relative to income. Opponents of MUP say that there is no evidence that it will improve the behaviour of problem drinkers, but that it will have an impact on those who enjoy alcohol responsibly. They cast doubt on the “modelling” which has been carried out by some academics, and point out that attaching weight to evidence from other jurisdictions, such as Canada or Scandinavia is like comparing apples with pears (or perhaps Special Brew with Château Lafite?)
Set your diary for mid 2015 and watch this space.