Concerns over the legality of the Scottish government’s plans for minimum pricing have been raised within the EU.
Plans for a 50p per unit minimum alcohol price were passed by MSPs earlier this year in a bid to address alcohol abuse. But five EU countries, France, Italy, Bulgaria, Portugal and Spain, have raised concerns that the measure infringes free trade rules, while the European Commission has also questioned its legality.
The Scottish government also face objections from the Scotch Whisky Association, which will challenge the proposals in court later this month. However, the UK government will support the Scottish government when the legislation is challenged.
Advocate General, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, said: “When the case is first heard in the Court of Session later this month, the UK government will be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Scottish government, seeking to support and complement the arguments that they present, and in particular ensure that the court has the benefit of the UK government’s experience and expertise in EU law.”
Meanwhile, the UK government has reaffirmed its commitment to introducing minimum pricing in England. “The government is clear that a minimum unit price should be effective over a sustained period and recognised that there are different ways by which this could be achieved, for example by linking the minimum unit price to inflation,” ministers said in their response to MPs on the health select committee.
The government will consult on the price level in the autumn.