By a Newsnet reporter

SNP MSP Bob Doris has welcomed an EU indication that the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol will be permissible under European Union law.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon held talks with EU Health Commissioner John Dalli and other senior officials in Brussels this week, and has claimed that the message coming from the European Commission is that the proposals will not fall foul of EU law.

Following the meeting with the EU Health Commissioner, Ms Sturgeon said:

“The very clear message coming from the commission was confirmation that minimum pricing for alcohol is entirely compatible in principle with EU law.”

However speaking to the BBC, Mr Dalli’s spokesman, Frederic Vincent, issued a note of caution as the precise details of the Scottish plans will have yet to be examined by EU lawyers.

Mr Vincent said: “We will have to check if Scotland’s proposals are compatible with EU law.  At this stage we don’t know.”

However Mr Vincent did not deny that the principle of mininum pricing conformed with EU law.

BBC reports

Mr Vincent’s message was reported by the BBC as a “denial” that mininum pricing will be legal and the impression given was that the Commission did not ‘back’ the plans.

However independent observers believe that Mr Vincent’s statement merely means that the Scottish government may have to change some of the details of their proposal should these be found to be incompatible with EU law, but that the basic principle has been accepted by the EU Health Commissioner.

The Labour party in Scotland have come out strongly against mininum pricing for alcohol, their objections being partly based on the claim that the idea is in breach of EU law.  Mr Dalli’s assurances to Ms Sturgeon deprive opponents of minimum pricing of their main argument.

Mr Doris, SNP MSP for Glasgow and deputy convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Health Committee, said:

“The SNP has always understood that minimum pricing would be perfectly legal, but this confirmation from the Health Commissioner himself is very welcome nonetheless.

“The issue of legality has been used a smokescreen by opponents of minimum pricing, but that excuse is no longer available to them. They must now accept that the principle of minimum pricing is legally acceptable to the EU and that there is no legal barrier to the Scottish Government legislating to introduce it.

“Alcohol-fuelled ill health and social disorder is serious issue in our society and one that the SNP is tackling head on. Last week’s independent report by the University of Sheffield reaffirmed that minimum pricing will be a powerful weapon in addressing Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with the bottle, which is why it is backed by medical, public health and criminal justice experts.

“Now that any lingering objections on legal grounds have been addressed, I hope that MSPs of all parties will unite in support of minimum pricing.”


Vincent McDee
2012-02-09 07:37

In the meantime, the BBC says Nicola is lying:

“A Scottish government claim that it had EU backing for plans to introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol has been denied by the European Commission”.


Among the people she met was John Dalli, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy

Mr Dalli’s spokesman, Frederic Vincent, issued a note of caution.

He said: “We will have to check if Scotland’s proposals are compatible with EU law. At this stage we don’t know.”

Following Mr Vincent’s statement, the Scottish government reiterated that the Brussels discussion had reinforced “what has always been our view, which is that – in principle – a minimum pricing policy is compatible with EU law”.
Saltire Groppenslosh
2012-02-09 07:55

Did we expect anything else from the BBC? What bothers me is that this isn’t indicative of one single journalist on a hate campaign against the SNP, no, it seems to be instituitional and there is an entire politics department dreaming up “spin” on every story concerning news about the SNP and more sardonically the Scottish Government.

As this seems to be instituitional, perhaps punitive action through the courts would be in order as there is plenty of evidence on their bias which breaches their own code of conduct and a high enough sum could be extracted making the “powers” at the top of the pile less likely to sanction such costly spin in future.
2012-02-09 08:14

If I were considering a proposal which had implications in European (EU) competition law I think I would have established, clearly and unequivocally first that the legal situation was watertight before I embarked on parliamentary time to debate. Pointless to have a policy or a plan, articulate it and then go figure if it is legal ?.
Go figure ?.
Jim Johnston
2012-02-09 08:57

Hi UpSpake,
As I recall the SNP had taken advice on this point before the original Bill was put to Parliament.

You wouldn’t to make sure you were not breaking any law and getting watertight agreement before helping someone across the road, would you ?

Lawyers love that s***.

Jim Johnston
2012-02-09 08:50

One thing the BBC wont do is stop spinning anti-Independence rubbish at every turn between now and autumn 2014.

Scotland can expect no less from the “unbiased” BBC.
2012-02-09 09:18

Is there no tern left unstoned in the BBC to try and get a negative headline?

I think there needs to be a BBC Watch monitoring every single story regarding the Scottish Government and stories covering the opposition position. A tally of negatives and positives could be published every month and something like this should be followed up to see if the spin is even remotely borne out by the facts.

No one is asking to the BBC to be uncritical of Government but they should be critical of opposition claims too, not act as a mouthpiece for them. That said poor Ken sounded ridiculous this morning trying to justify Labour’s budget opposition yesterday. So there are chinks of light. I missed John’s bit after eight. How did that go?
Stevie Cosmic
2012-02-09 09:58

What do we make of this:

Stihler exposes embarrassing SNP Gaffe


The Health Secretary has been accused of making an “embarrassing gaffe” after meeting the wrong EU Commissioner about her plans to set a minimum unit price for alcohol.

Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon met with EU Commissioner for Health John Dalli earlier this week to discuss her plans to introduce a minimum price per unit for alcohol.


Labour MEP Catherine Stihler said:

“At best this is cack-handed diplomacy, at worst this is a deliberate distortion of the Commissioner’s position.

“Despite all their spin at no point did the Commissioner say that minimum unit pricing was legal under EU law.

“The SNP have embarrassed themselves on the international stage, but my concern is that it reflects poorly on Scotland as a whole.”


“The SNP stand for tearing apart the UK. How can they be expected to run a country if they’re incapable of meeting with the correct Commissioner?

“It’s clear that in tripling their budget for spin, the SNP have decided to avoid reporting the facts, instead briefing the press on entirely made up outcomes from the meeting. “

Auld Bob
2012-02-09 10:53

Pity Stihler cannot also highlight the gaffes made on a daily basis by herself and the entire Labour party. I mean by that her assumption that the EU membership is England’s as the United Kingdom. As there were only two equal sovereign nations that signed, “The Treaty of Union”, the Treaty makes it very clear that such things as the Pound, Queen, Treasury, Westminster Parliament, army, navy air force, civil Service, in fact ALL Assets of “Her Majesty’s Parliament of the United Kingdom”, are as much Scottish as they are English, (that is, “Greater England”, who signed as sovereign over both Wales & Ireland). If this MSP can show a single item mentioned in, “The Treaty of Union”, that indicates England has a superior claim of any Parliament of the United Kingdom in favour of England she should highlight that indication. There is thus no legal claim that any UK asset should be divided up on either a Geographic or a per capita basis. Her bland assumtion that England and the UK are one and the same is no more than her own failure to comprehend the actuality of the matter. There will still be, “A United Kingdom”, after Scotland bins the Treaty of Union. After all we will still share the same monarch. What will end is, “Her Majesty’s Parliament of her United Kingdom. We will then share Her Majesty’s army, navy, air force, Treasury, Civil Service, Bank of England and down to the last paper clip in her Majesty’s civil service Stationary Office. Not to mention every treasure that belongs to that joint United Kingdom in the National museums, art galleries and ballet, opera and theatre.

Where do these Labour Party Hacks get off? How long before they learn that The United Kingdom was a two party agreement between only two parties who were, as the treaty states, equal sovereign states who happened to share a monarch? The UK is not England’s and there will be NO rumpUK parliament.
2012-02-09 11:07

“”“The SNP stand for tearing apart the UK. How can they be expected to run a country if they’re incapable of meeting with the correct Commissioner?””
Labour MEP Catherine Stihler

The ‘Labour’ tag attached to her seems to have triggered some distorting mechanism within.
The SNP have no interest in ‘seperating, divorcing, abandoning, or any other ‘clutching at straws’ put forward as an excuse.
The SNP simply are working to achieve the democratic principle for Scottish folk to have the same right as Catherine Stihler – namely the right to political and financial self determination.

Perhaps she might consider explaining why she sees this as ‘wrong’?
2012-02-09 13:47

How does she know what the Commissioner said – was the room bugged? Who is she saying is the correct minister to talk to? The EU Health Commisioner appears to be saying that he has no objections to the proposal and will run it past the EU lawyers. The EU is labyrinth I doubt very mnuch there is a single “right Commissioner”. Who does Stilher suggest that “right Commissioner” is?

Why do Labour want people to be as drunk as possible all the time. Is it the only hope they have of getting Xs in the box?

2012-02-09 11:07

slightly o/t: I am worried about a potential brain drain in the computer game industry in that tax breaks are illegal under EU law so more of our creative minds will end up emigrating to Canada
2012-02-09 11:36

Sadly out of touch politicians and out of date laws have been becoming more and more of a problem in relation to computers and the internet.

So many industries get tax breaks or support of some kind, but the games design industry is not seen as “a proper industry” by many in power.

ituna semea
2012-02-09 12:46

I think Ms Sturgeon has been economical with the truth but generous with the spin.
2012-02-09 14:03

Quoting ituna semea:

I think Ms Sturgeon has been economical with the truth but generous with the spin.

I think you’ve just described the unionist supporting parties in general and the Labour lot in particular – Iraq war, non-existent WMDs, dodgy dossier, anyone? And more recently the myth and lies about “global firms” being “concerned” about investing in Scotland because of the “uncertainty” being caused by the referendum debate – according to Cameron, Osbourne, Moore, the Alexanders, Bain, et al.

2012-02-09 15:27

I wouldn’t expect any shame from someone who calls themselves “Son of the Union” in the language of a nation also seeking self-determination

Every time one of these weaselly accusations are made, they are proven faqllacious, and yet still the smears come
2012-02-09 23:17

Ah now RS you’ve tickled my imagination with this one. Since the Babel fish is sleeping in its bowl and the universal translator is off line due to incompatibility problems between windows and the curtains…. where did you sus “son of the union” from??
2012-02-09 23:32

Well this is where I go into Superpedant overdrive.

itun in Basque doesn’t mean “union”. It means “agreement, pact, treaty, accord”. Seme is “son”. The -a ending is the Basque definite article.

The word for union is batasun. Probably ituna semea didn’t use that because of the Basque independence party Batasuna – literally “The Union”, which was declared illegal in Spain due to claimed links with ETA. The “union” referred to in Batasuna’s name is the union of Basque abertzale groups (left wing independentista  s).

But in any case “ituna semea” is grammatically ill-formed. It means “the treaty the son”. “Son of the treaty” requires the Basque partitive or non-personal possessive case. It ought to be itunko semea although semea itunko would be more idiomatic.

The source for all this, in case you’re wondering (but you’re probably not) is Gorka Aulestia’s Basque Dictionary, and my mate Sebas who’s a native Basque speaker.

2012-02-09 12:51

It is in line with EU policy to stop supermarkets selling loss leaders below production cost.

Better to tax it to pay for the price of low cost alcoholon Society. Make the guilty pay the more low cost alcohol they drink, the more they pay.

Social costs for Police, violent crime, murder, Prison Service Fire Service, Foster care, Probation service, family breakup and early death.
2012-02-09 15:47

I think they’re all just upset that Nicola didn’t obtain permission from Lord Foulkes before traveling to Brussels.
2012-02-09 17:15


Glasgow Labour imploding?

“Glasgow City Council’s budget has been passed by a majority of two despite up to nine resignations of Labour councillors.”…/…
2012-02-09 19:38

Yeah, saw Mathieson bricking himself 🙂 However did you hear what the woman who left Labour last week said? She was approached before the vote and a veiled threat about her son loosing his council job if she didn’t vote the right way made.

2012-02-09 17:32

O/T Can someone put to rest the idea that come independence, the EU would take control of our oil.I tried to tell my neighbour this was not so but he is against independence for that reason. Who is right.
2012-02-09 17:33

You’re right, as for your neighbour, build a high fence and call for the yellow ambulance..
2012-02-09 19:34

If it were anything to do with the EU they’d have taken it before now because the UK is an EU member.

2012-02-09 18:27

On the theme of the EC/wrong commissioners etc.

Struan Stevenson MEP writing in the Stirling Observer this week said that the SNP has not contacted any relevant officials/ministers etc in the EC to make sure that what they [SNP] are saying about being in the EC post-independence is correct.

Anyone know anything about this?
2012-02-09 18:33

I thought they didn’t need to contact them because the EU has already stated their position.
2012-02-09 23:21

Struan Stevenson – Tory, Catherine Stihler – Labour – what more need one say? Red and blue tories at the ham again…..oh look there’s another wolf

2012-02-10 07:54

From the P&J;

80% of A&E; weekend cases caused by drink:…/…

Health bosses have revealed four out of five weekend admissions to a north hospital are the direct result of people drinking too much.

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