A former Scottish Conservative MEP has accused the SNP government of squandering hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on fighting what he describes as ‘a lost cause’ on minimum alcohol pricing through the courts. Struan Stevenson, who was an MEP from 1999 until his retirement last year claims that he warned the government back in 2009 that such a move would be illegal. Speaking after the European Court ruling that the Scottish government's case for a minimum unit price for alcohol is contrary to EU law he said:

“As always, the SNP government has shown itself to be clueless on Europe, but they can’t say they weren't warned! Away back in 2009, I received a reply to a written question that I had submitted to the European Commission. The reply came from Baroness Ashton (Catherine Ashton) who at that time was the Trade Commissioner. Her letter clearly stated that minimum pricing of alcohol could breach WTO and EU law, according to a legal analysis conducted by the European Commission. I passed on the letter to the SNP government.

“The Trade Commissioner stated that proposals by the Scottish Government to introduce a minimum price based on the alcohol content of products could violate Article III of the GATT 1994 rules. She even sent me a legal opinion conducted by top lawyers at the European Commission that stated:

“The imposition of a minimum price has the effect of discriminating against non-EU or EU imported alcohol products in favour of Scottish alcohol products, for instance by preventing the former to be supplied at a lower price than the latter. In such a situation the measure would violate WTO law (namely Article III of the GATT 1994) and the EU internal market rules (namely Article 28 of the EC Treaty).”

“I said at the time that the Scottish Government was stumbling into a legal minefield with their ill-considered proposals, because the imposition of a minimum price of either 40p or 50p per unit would drive up prices on a range of imported products rendering them uncompetitive with their UK equivalents, thus constituting a direct breach of WTO and EU internal market laws.

“Now I have to ask how much taxpayers' money has the SNP government squandered on useless legal challenges which they appear set to continue in the Court of Session and even in the UK Supreme Court. This is a scandalous waste of money on a cause that was legally doomed from the outset.”

Struan Stevenson