Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Drink lands Scotland in court

In a move that will surprise few people who have followed the SNP's minimum price plans, three separate organisations are challenging the proposals in court, and at the same time one of them has lodged a complaint in Europe. According to an article in the Publican's Morning Advertiser, "Three trade bodies - the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), the European Spirits Organisation and wine association Comite Vins - have made the petition to the Scottish Court of Session, arguing that minimum pricing could break EU regulations on competition. They said that the Scottish Government has exceeded its powers by pursuing the measure.

"The SWA said it feared ‘copycat’ action by other European countries if Scotland succeeds in introducing minimum pricing, costing the Scotch whisky industry £500m in exports. Separately, the SWA has made a formal complaint about the Scottish proposals to the European Commission (EC).

"The trade group argued that minimum pricing restricts trade between member states. It also said that because wine is defined as an agricultural product, setting a minimum price is contrary to EC regulations."

The SNP is, predictably, thoroughly unrepentant and intends to squander taxpayers' money defending a completely misguided plan that will not achieve its stated aims and instead will only penalise the ordinary drinker. I've said before that politicians like simple proposals like this because they give the impression of action without doing much at all about the problems they are meant to address. The cheap option is now going to become a lot more costly as the legal profession prepares to clean up, which it will whichever way the judgment goes; but, as we know, politicians always prefer spending other people's money to losing face. I hope it's only Scottish taxpayers and not the rest of us who get stung for the bill: after all, they voted this shower in.


  1. Jim (Lion regular)21 August 2012 at 21:46

    "that will not achieve its stated aims and instead will only penalise the ordinary drinker."

    Hi Nev, just saw this post. Can you explain why it will only penalise the ordinary drinker?

    It seems to me it will not affect pubs at all as they charge way more per unit than 50/60p.

    The idea, as I understand it, is to make supermarket drinks more expensive as it is currently very cheap. People are apparently scooping up cheap booze before going to the pub. If this is lessened then perhaps more alcohol would be sold in pubs, perhaps reducing the trend in the closure of pubs.

    I don't see this as a bad thing.

    I'll talk to you about it next Lion night perhaps.

  2. I mean ordinary drinkers as opposed to problem drinkers, not pub drinkers versus home drinkers. People who drink at home do so for a variety of reasons: they can't afford pub prices, they have children, they are smokers who have given up going to the pub (because their friends are less important to them than not having to step outside for a cigarette), or simply they prefer to do so. These will be hit by minimum pricing, and if you drink at home for financial reasons - perhaps if you're unemployed - you may be deprived of that small pleasure. In addition, I don't think we can be certain that once a minimum price is established, it won't be increased until it does impact on pub prices.


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