Irish Alcohol Industry Reacts To Scottish Ruling On Minimum Unit Pricing
Published on Oct 25 2016 10:53 AM
A ruling in Scotland’s Court of Session to grant approval to the Scottish Government to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol could have effects for a similar proposal in Ireland, and key industry bodies have been following the case carefully.
The Court of Session refused a challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) to the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012, arguing that minimum pricing would discriminate against poorer drinkers.
The presiding judges, Lord Carloway, Lord Brodie and Lord Menzies, agreed that “the fundamental problem with an increase in tax was simply that it did not produce a minimum price” and that supermarkets “could absorb any tax increase by off-setting them against the price of other products unrelated to alcohol”. The judges upheld the 2013 ruling that the SWA were appealing.
The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) was skeptical of the news, with ABFI director Ross Mac Mathúna urging the Government to be cautious. “We ask the Government to reflect on today’s decision carefully before similar measures are introduced in this country,” said Mr Mac Mathúna. “Given that we already pay the highest price and amongst the highest taxes in the EU for alcohol, it's evident that price is not a silver bullet for tackling alcohol misuse.”
He also said ministers should be “mindful of the Border” when considering whether to go ahead with minimum unit pricing. “With the decline in the value of sterling post the Brexit vote, cross border shopping is on the increase and raising the price of alcohol in the Republic on a unilateral basis would further exacerbate this while doing little to address harm,” added Mr Mac Mathúna.
The National Off-Licence Association saw the ruling as encouraging, and urged the Government to push ahead with legislation on the issue. The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI) also welcomed the Scottish decision, and said that it hopes it ‘will encourage our own Government to introduce the same measure here along with other key measures outlined in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill’.
The VFI added that it believes ‘that any long term strategic approach to tackling alcohol misuse must address the core issues of availability and affordability. Ultimately, the proposals contained in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill are long overdue and we need the Government to proceed with urgency.’
The provisions set out in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill last year laid out how minimum unit pricing might be done, and suggested a minimum price per gram of alcohol at €0.10.
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