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UK: Minimum pricing “probably not illegal” - Scottish Government

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The Scottish Government has countered suggestions that its plans to introduce minimum pricing per unit of alcohol in the country are “probably illegal”.

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Speaking in London today (2 November), the head of the Scottish Government's public health division, Donald Henderson, said the government believes the move is “probably not illegal”. Henderson was fielding a question that highlighted legal advice given to the UK Government on minimum pricing, which concluded the move is “probably illegal” under European law.

The Scottish Government launched a new Alcohol Bill yesterday, which seeks to impose a minimum price per alcohol unit in the country.

“The UK Government has taken legal advice we call 'the Carlsberg defence', believing it to be probably illegal,” said Henderson. “We think it is probably not illegal.”

Henderson highlighted a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) Advocate General over proposed minimum pricing for tobacco in 2009. “The ECJ had an opportunity to opine clearly on the question of price related to health,” he said. “They dodged it. In the case of tobacco they managed to find some tobacco legislation.”

Henderson added: “We're looking to clarify the law or make a new law; we're happy to do that in order to achieve the public health benefits that we need to." Henderson was speaking at a Westminster Food & Nutrition Forum seminar on alcohol earlier today.


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