Thursday, 3 September 2015

Told you so!

For several years I’ve been arguing that minimum alcohol pricing would not only be ineffective and disproportionately affect the poor, but was also illegal anyway under EU competition law.

And it seems that the European Court of Justice agrees with me.

Nicola Sturgeon’s plans to fix a minimum price for alcohol has suffered a huge blow after the European court’s top lawyer ruled it would infringe EU law on free trade.

In a formal opinion on Sturgeon’s flagship policy, the advocate general to the European court of justice, Yves Bot, has said fixing a legal price for all alcoholic drinks could only be justified to protect public health if no other mechanism, such as tax increases, could be found.

Bot’s opinion is expected to mean a final defeat for the Scottish government’s efforts to be the first in Europe to introduce minimum pricing – supported by leading figures in the medical profession and the police, after several years of legal battles.

Let’s hope that nails the idea once and for all. Nicola Sturgeon must be looking like she’s swallowed a wasp this morning. Maybe Cameron should now throw down the gauntlet and propose devolving alcohol duty to Scotland.

Another group who won’t be happy are the prohibitionists’ useful idiots in CAMRA who deluded themselves that increasing the price of cheap lager in Tesco would bring customers flooding back to pubs to still pay four times as much. To be fair, CAMRA did drop its official support for minimum pricing a couple of years ago following a motion (co-proposed by Tandleman) rightly making the point that it put them on the wrong side of the argument.

In general, I’m no fan of the EU, but it does have its uses in standing up for free trade and fair competition.


  1. What can I say but I'll drink to that...!

  2. I find it slightly odd you refer to CAMRA's useful idiots, while acknowledging that the Campaign has rejected the policy: I was there and voted for Tandleman's motion, as did a clear majority of those present. The useful idiots are individuals who may, or may not, be members, but they don't speak for the Campaign.

  3. @RedNev - I still see plenty of comments from CAMRA members on social media and web forums bewailing how "cheap supermarket booze" is killing pubs. Also a couple of years ago I remember Roger Protz saying on Twitter when the Westminster government ruled out minimum pricing, "how are we going to save pubs now?"

    Yes, the 2013 AGM did reverse the policy on minimum pricing and great credit to Tandleman and Graham Donning for proposing the motion. But I think this discomfited many of the great and good in CAMRA.

    There are still many in CAMRA who instinctively identify with those who want to control people's diet for their own good, as opposed to those who believe that adults should be allowed to exercise free choice in what they eat and drink.

  4. You'll always get people who don't accept majority decisions, but that's true of every organisation that involves active membership participation. Anyone speaking officially for the Campaign cannot advocate minimum pricing, although privately they can hold whatever views they like. As for Roger Protz, I don't share his opinion of himself as some kind of wise elder statesman of the Campaign.

    They clearly lost the debate and don't like it. That just makes them whingers and bad losers.

  5. CAMRA still bang on about "irresponsible supermarkets", does this mean something other than selling grog cheaper than pubs?

  6. Supermarkets may well have helped put the nails in the coffin, but the brewers share most of the responsibility by letting them have the drink so cheap in the first place, and those 'loss leaders' that people used to bang on about were rare, often supported by brewery 'market share' promotions.

    The SNP are no different to any socialist government - exertion of control over the population to force their policies to work. Their latest nonsense is a costly investigation into the possibility of banning energy intensive household appliances such as washing machines and dryers.


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