Daily Archives: October 1, 2011

Follow up to Scottish Alcohol Bill

I’ve been asked the question relating to the Alcohol Bill, something I posted about yesterday, ‘how can Scotland introduce minimum pricing, isn’t that a breach of EU law?’. So I thought this is something I would address in brief.

The issue is discussed in the British Medical Journal this month by Bryan Christie (Scotland will set minimum price for a unit of alcohol, BMJ 2011; 343:d5869) where he mentions;

Although the measure will be approved in Scotland, it may still be blocked under European Union competition laws. Rules on free trade generally do not allow price fixing, which is seen as anticompetitive. In 1978 the European Court of Justice rejected minimum pricing of spirits, and the European Commission has also opposed minimum pricing on tobacco.”

However in creating the legislation, the Scottish Government has obviously taken advice from various sources and in the Q&A section on their website the following is stated;

Isn’t imposing a minimum price illegal? The Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament has issued a certificate of legislative competence for the Alcohol Bill which includes minimum pricing. This means that he considers the Bill to be within the powers of the Scottish Parliament.” (Minimum Pricing – Questions Answered, Scottish Government,

So the Scottish Government clearly believe that the legislation and implications of it are legal. Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) have addressed this issue and were involved in the consultation process. Their official policy is that;

In the UK and at an EU level, rules on free trade generally do not allow price fixing on the grounds that it is deemed ‘anti-competitive’ and, it is argued, leads to inefficiency in the market. However, it is important to note that the law allows exceptions to these rules. Intervention in the operation of a market can legally be justified in certain circumstances on the grounds of the protection of public health.” (Legal framework for minimum pricing for alcohol, SHAAP,,Legal_framework.html)

Now is the problem. What SHAAP are saying is indeed correct. EU law does indeed allow a margin of appreciation for Member States to derogate from certain legal principles on grounds of public health. The real question is whether it can actually justify the derogation if challenged in the European Courts. The problem here is that they are trying to invoke the right to derogate from EU law on grounds of public health for what is in reality a completely legal activity – consuming alcohol.

In my opinion we won’t actually find out the true legal position until / if such a legal challenge is mounted.

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Compulsory retirement at 65 in the UK ends

As of today, the option for employers in the UK to invoke compulsory retirement for anybody that has reached the age of 65 has been taken away. Although The Employment Equality (Repeal of Retirement Age Provisions) Regulations 2011 ( came into force on 6th April this year, employers still had the option to invoke compulsory retirement on giving six months notice to any employee that would have been 65 prior to 1st October (today). With this date now passing, workers can no longer be forced to retire on grounds of age alone.  In fact, for those seeking guidance, for an employer to even approach an older worker and offer them retirement based on their age could potentially be classed as discrimination on grounds of age – it’s a bit of a ‘grey’ area….

This is especially good news for UWS, as our department Professor, Angus McAllister is beyond 65, and for the past few years there was a worry (he himself was concerned) that he may be asked to retire. For the development of our forthcoming LLB degree this would have been a disaster and potentially rendered the task impossible. With his place at UWS guaranteed for as long as he decides to stay, it is a real positive for the law department.

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Posted by on October 1, 2011 in Uncategorized


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