UK: Scotch whisky industry to continue lobbying on minimum pricing
A vote in the Scottish Parliament has spurred on the Scotch whisky industry in its attempts to persuade the Scottish Government to drop plans for a minimum price on drinks.
Members of the Parliament rejected the plan in a non-binding vote late last week. The Conservative opposition party, which initiated the debate last week, said minimum pricing was "all but dead".
But, Labour, which as the second largest party holds the key to Parliamentary approval for the pricing plan, is still officially considering its position.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish health minister, is relying on the support of Labour's 46 MSPs to win the majority she needs.
The Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) told just-drinks today (10 November) that it welcomes last week's vote.
It said there is a "clear consensus" across the political parties that minimum pricing is "illegal" under European law and that there are concerns that such a measure would be ineffective in tackling alcohol harm.
David Williamson, a spokesperson for the SWA, said: "There was a clear understanding that such a measure would be damaging to Scotch whisky in some domestic markets, but it would also set a precedent that would have a wide-ranging impact on the export of Scottish whisky around the world …which would encourage other governments to put in similar trade barriers that would impact the whisky industry's ability to export on a serious basis."
He added that while The Alcohol Bill is expected to be published before the end of the year, the Scottish whisky industry would continue to make "representations" to the Scottish Government, so that when the Bill comes forward the minimum pricing proposals have been removed.
"The industry supports the vast majority of the measures that are likely to be in that bill, but we are opposed, in principal, to minimum pricing because it is illegal under European law and because of the damage that it would do to the industry overall," Williamson said.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Executive confirmed that minimum pricing will be merged into the upcoming Alcohol Bill, which will be introduced in the Scottish Parliament before the end of this year.
"That vote was relatively inconsequential in the grand scheme of things," he said.
"It was the Conservative Party's debating time and …it didn't go anywhere so minimum pricing together with all the other proposals will go into the Alcohol Bill to be introduced before the end of the year. Then the relevant parliamentary committees will be able to scrutinise it in full."
Last month, the European Court of Justice ruled that setting a minimum price on products is illegal.
A minimum price on alcoholic drinks in Scotland could cost the Scotch whisky industry up to GBP600m (US$937m), with authorities in key export markets likely to follow Scotland's lead, the Scotch Whisk...
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