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Balance welcomes Advocate General of the European Court of Justice's opinion on MUP

Balance has welcomed the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice's opinion that a minimum unit price is not against EU law, providing certain tests are passed.

Advocate General Yves Bot today delivered his opinion on plans to introduce a minimum unit price (MUP) in Scotland stating that the pricing policy is legal in principle if it could be shown that no other mechanism, such as increasing taxes, was capable of delivering the same public health benefits.
Colin Shevills, Director of Balance, said: “This marks an extremely positive step forward in the Scottish Government’s fight to implement a minimum unit price. Evidence shows that MUP will substantially reduce consumption levels and, in turn, the harm it causes to society – more so than alternative measures such as taxation alone.
“Studies show that price increases save lives, reduce consumption and cut alcohol-related hospital admissions and serious crimes. You only have to look at the evidence coming from Canada, which has introduced MUP, to see the policy works.
“The legal challenge by the alcohol industry has undermined the Scottish Parliament and only serves to highlight that they are prioritising their profits over people’s lives.
“It’s important to remember that a minimum unit price won’t impact moderate drinkers – it targets the cheapest, strongest products that cause the most harm.
“In the North East, we have a similar relationship with alcohol as drinkers in Scotland and if we are to save lives and truly make a difference we need targeted pricing measures put in place to reduce consumption levels. There’s already significant support for MUP from local councils, Police and Crime Commissioners and many North East residents.
“If our Government is serious about tackling the harm alcohol causes, it’s time to follow Scotland’s lead.”
The Scottish Parliament passed legislation to introduce a minimum unit price of 50p in May 2012 and it was due to come into force the following year. However, a legal challenge by the Scottish Whisky Association – backed by other European wine and spirits producers – saw them argue that MUP breached European law.
The initial bid was rejected by the Scottish Court of Session in 2013 but the alcohol industry launched an appeal. Following an appeal hearing, the case was referred to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg in April last year.
Today’s opinion of the court's Advocate General precedes the full judgement of the ECJ expected in a few months’ time.

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