Setting a minimum price on products is illegal, the European Court of Justice has said, in what drinks firms hope will be a further blow to plans to introduce a minimum price on alcoholic drinks.

The preliminary ruling, published today (22 October), came in a case brought by the European Commission against Austria, Ireland and France, which had intended to impose a minimum price on tobacco.

The European Court of Justice Advocate General said today (22 October) that such a measure would be illegal. The Advocate General's opinion is generally reflected in the final court ruling.

The news has buoyed the alcoholic drinks industry in its fight against plans for a minimum pricing scheme in Scotland.

Gavin Hewitt, CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association, said today: "This Opinion is a comprehensive rejection of minimum pricing by the European Court of Justice and cannot simply be ignored by the Scottish Government."

Last month, just-drinks revealed that the UK's Office of Fair Trading has warned the Scottish Government that it opposes minimum pricing.

Drinks industry leaders expect any minimum pricing scheme to face legal challenges, but the proposal is being strongly backed across the UK by the medical profession.