Scottish minimum pricing plans opposed by 11 countries

26 July, 2013

Eleven European wine and spirits producing countries have lodged a bid to block Scotland’s plans for minimum unit pricing on alcohol by branding them illegal, unfair and ineffective.

Nations including Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Bulgaria oppose the scheme and warned of the “grave consequences” it would have on their domestic economies.

The submissions have been made to the European Commission, which is currently considering the Scottish Government’s request to be granted an exemption from trade regulations that prevent price fixing.

Scotland’s health minister Alex Neil said he would “go the full mile” to ensure the plans are pushed through.

But Mario Moniz Barreto, secretary general of the Portuguese Spirits Association, said: “We live in a free trade market area, the measure applied in one country is bound to have an effect on all the others.

“This measure will impose a detrimental obstacle to entry of new products of quality, but which at the same time may be a more competitive price, to the Scottish market.”

In its submission to the Commission, the Portuguese government warned minimum unit pricing in Scotland would have "a dramatic impact" on its export market to the UK “causing grave consequences to Portuguese companies and the sector in general”.

Of 12 countries that wrote to the Commission, only Ireland spoke in favour of the proposed scheme, calling it a “proportional measure”.

France said the UK was its biggest foreign market for wine, accounting for 17 %, and that minimum pricing would cause the sector to “suffer serious losses”.

The Bulgarian government added: “The products that will be particularly affected are those in the lowest price bracket, into which Bulgarian wines fall.”

Spain branded the measure “inequitable and discriminatory" and said it could not be justified on public health grounds, while Italy expressed its “firm opposition”.

Poland said the price of 92% of vodkas would increase and place more expensive Scotch in a “privileged position”.

Neil said he would be “happy to engage in a charm offensive to explain to them that there is a social purpose to this measure, it is nothing to do with trying to restrict trade or trying to gain an unfair advantage”.

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