EU Court of Justice stops minimum alcohol pricing legislation in Scotland

ECJ reasons that "a tax measure might provide additional benefits and a broader response to the objective of combating alcohol misuse"

The Scottish legislation introducing a minimum price per unit of alcohol is contrary to EU law if less restrictive tax measures can be introduced, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Wednesday. The ECJ said it considered that “the effect of the Scottish legislation is significantly to restrict the market, and this might be avoided by the introduction of a tax measure designed to increase the price of alcohol instead of a measure imposing a minimum price per unit of alcohol.”

The Scottish Parliament in 2012 had passed legislation relating to the minimum price of alcoholic drinks in Scotland. That legislation provided for the imposition of a minimum price per unit of alcohol. The minimum price of alcoholic drinks is to be calculated by the application of a formula that takes into account the strength and volume of alcohol. The lawmakers aimed to protect human life and health by increasing the currently modest price of some high-strength alcoholic drinks.

The Scotch Whisky Association and a number of other undertakings in the alcoholic drinks sector brought proceedings against that legislation, claiming that the Scottish legislation constitutes a quantitative restriction on trade that is incompatible with EU law, and that its effect is to distort competition among distributors of alcohol. The legal challenge delayed the implementation of the minimum unit price legislation.

See also our cepInput on the European Alcohol Strategy 2016-2022.