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Mon 15th Oct 2012 - Breaking News
Scotland shelves plans to introduce minimum pricing: The Scottish government has put plans to introduce minimum pricing on alcohol on hold as legal challenges against the move continue to mount. The Scottish government has confirmed it will not be introducing minimum pricing until legal action brought against it by drinks producers has been settled. The decision means that the proposal, which was due to come into force in the spring of next year, has now been put on hold indefinitely with an introduction date several years away assuming the Scottish government beats legal challenges from drinks producers and European legal issues. Action along the same lines by tobacco firms against a ban on promotional displays of cigarettes is still running its course – the action has delayed laws by nearly two years. Minimum pricing was already hitting difficulties after the European Commission ruled last month that it was opposed to it on the grounds it broke free trade laws. The European Commission has joined five European Union nations in submitting legal questions over the controversial legislation, which was passed by the Scottish government in April. A spokesman at the EC’s Industry and Entrepreneurship Directorate said the plan to introduce a 50p minimum price caused difficulties in terms of compatibility with the EU Treaty. “We are in a process aimed at finding a solution to the legal problems,” he said. Last month, it was revealed that Bulgaria has raised an objection to the legislation. It has now been joined by France, Italy, Portugal and Spain. The objections mean the consideration period for the proposals will be extended for a further three months to 27 December. In Friday Propel Opinion, leading on-trade alcohol commentator Paul Chase said: “Minimum pricing is but one item in a shopping list of items that go far beyond supermarkets. Included in the wish-list of the health lobby are MUP, a ban on all alcohol price promotions for all sectors of the trade, restrictions on advertising, restrictions on hours and a reduction in outlet density (less pubs).” The Scotsman said in a leader column: “While there is no doubt that the Scottish government seems confident of the legality of its plans, equally there seems little doubt that the five major wine-producing countries who think it does infringe current EU law will press their case. The only certainty in all this is that the battle will drag on for years and at a considerable cost to the Scottish taxpayer. Galling through it may be for this administration, particularly given it is right to try to tackle the scourge of alcohol in this way, perhaps a pragmatic retreat is in order.”
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