MINIMUM pricing on alcohol is incompatible with European Union (EU) regulations and should not be introduced, according to the EU’s ruling body.
The European Commission (EC) said minimum pricing could restrict imports of foreign alcohol, putting international producers at a competitive disadvantage in Scotland.
While the EC recognises that Scotland has one of the fastest-growing rates of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis in the world, it said minimum pricing is a “disproportionate” response.
The Commission would prefer a wholesale increase in all alcohol prices through raising taxes, something outwith Holyrood’s control, or unspecified targeted measures in the specific Scottish regions where alcohol abuse is a problem rather than penalising the entire population.
The ruling specifically relates to the Scottish Government’s plan for a 50p minimum unit price on alcohol but could have a cross-border impact on the UK Government’s new minimum pricing plans.
Home Secretary Theresa May today announced plans to tackle “drunken mayhem” on the streets of England and Wales by introducing a minimum price of 45p per unit.
The EC directive published today “invites” the authorities to “abstain from adopting the draft legislation at issue”, specifically the draft Alcohol (Minimum Price per Unit) (Scotland) Order 2013.