Editor's Viewpoint - Minimum Unit Pricing: Everyone's a Winner, Baby
So, is minimum unit pricing legal, or is it illegal? It would appear that we're going to find out once and for all.
Earlier today (30 April) the Court of Session in Edinburgh referred a legal challenge to the proposal to the European Court of Justice. Minimum unit pricing (MUP), which was granted Royal Assent, has not yet been introduced in Scotland thanks to the appeal lodged by, among others, the Scotch Whisky Association and SpiritsEurope.
Almost three years ago, the UK Government abandoned the idea for England and Wales, after it concluded that MUP “is probably illegal”, claiming that " it contravenes European free trade legislation. A few months later, however, the head of the Scottish Government's public health division said: “We think it is probably not illegal.”
With Europe's top court set to rule on the idea, which side is going to end up with egg on its face?
I would imagine – as is the way with this kind of situation – that both the pro- and anti- camps will claim a victory of sorts when the ECJ decision is handed down. When MUP is ruled as anti-competitive (because, well, it is), the drinks industry will reach for the fizzy. The Scottish authorities, meanwhile, will say that they may have been defeated in the courts, but they have the best health interests of the Scottish population at heart.
Every loser wins, they say.
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