I take a real fancy to a bit of a tipple now and again. A real tipple of spirits not some watered down muck like Sangria. My favourite sin of all is a splash of whiskey with cola. It really is a sin in Spain where whisky is reserved for flavouring your ice or being poured over some questionable dessert on the lunch time menu. I kid you not, the infamous ‘tarta de whiskey’ is a real favourite in the local bar in a nearby town. Pedro does his infamous shoe shuffling routine to bring out a good ole bottle of Scottish Whiskey for you to pour all over some questionable quinoline yellow tart that you would never dare eat except for the alcohol.(See this post) The best part of all is that he excuses himself back to his bar duties leaving the bottle in all its little och aye glory sitting there unaccompanied on the table cloaked in a label of golden trust – this would never happen in the tourist resorts I tell you! No sir, In the resorts you would follow the English model of buying your liquor -,you would pay before not after and you wouldn´t get your sticky paws on the bottle. Here, in the little village close to where I live I´m trusted to regulate my own intake of the golden liquor. Trusted to be adult enough not to take more than I pay for, trusted to take a splash for flavour or even avoid altogether if I am driving. That aside, I´m trusted to be adult enough to know what is right for me as far as alcohol is concerned and that is it. Why am I harping on about trust and alcohol…? Read on.
The Scottish Whiskey Association, a long standing organisation has petitioned the European Court of Justice against what it perceives as a breach of Freedom of Trade, or more specifically the Scottish Law that states that Whiskey must be subject to a minimum pricing structure of 50 pence per alcoholic unit. More importantly the EU Court of Justice is hearing the case this coming Thursday on the 3rd of September. Why is it important? Well I for one have considered the fact that it has been a clever attempt by a Scottish government to expand its tax raising powers through the back door. How so? Well, currently the Scottish Government has the power to raise or lower income tax up or down by 3p. It has no power to levy or change duties on goods. Therefore, a minimum pricing per alcoholic unit is not necessarily a tax. How clever! This will change in 2016 when the Scottish Parliament will have the power to cut the current 20 per cent tax tate to 10 per cent or lower if it wants. I ask, why oh why didn’t they just vote for independence? Still I respect the outcome of the referendum without further commentary.
Back to the matter at hand. The bone of contention lies between an asserted breach of the Acts of the Union which is a historical act that unifies Scotland into the United Kingdom. The contention expands to the fact that this legislative power is purported to lie outside the Parliament of Scotland. A second argument suggests that even if the Scottish Government is deemed to have this power , it goes against EU law in three different ways. Firstly, it breaches Article 34 of the Lisbon Treaty which allows for the free movement of goods between member states without interference. Secondly, that Article 36 of the same treaty which regulates restrictions and regulation or movement of goods due to public health could not be justified in its application. Lastly, that a breach has occurred in relation the the EC law that governs the marketing of wine and other spirits.
I for one am very interested in the outcome of the case. Firstly on the basis that at present the EU is currently very unpopular in the UK for many reasons. I personally am glad that there is a final debate and reference point for such arguments given the tendency of British Governments to ‘nanny’ its citizens. I for one do not want to be told how much I should drink, when I should drink or even that I am going to pay over and above what other EU citizens pay for the same product. How do you feel when I say it is possible for me to buy a bottle of lovely Scottish whiskey in Spain for a much much lower price than you in the UK? This is all because the Spanish Government trust me not to abuse myself and are happy to let me enjoy my leisure time without feeling the need to regulate me beyond what is necessary. Surely governments need to debate other more important issues? Given that the UK Parliament between 2014-2015 only met for 133 days out of 365 for a total of 900 or so hours see for yourself here then why are they over concentrated on ‘nannying’ its citizens instead of sorting out its mess of a foreign policy. What if I say to you that I can buy half a glass of lovely Scottish Whiskey in my local bar for 1 euro 10 cents (less than a British Pound) because the Spanish Government support the bar tenders here and do not expect me to flog my guts out at work all week and then be left with nothing to enjoy myself with at the weekend.
The sad thing is, Scotland has a fabulous product that is famous through out the world and the Scottish Parliament want to spoil the enjoyment of such a product via unfair pricing structures because of a minority that do not drink responsibly. Given that the UK Parliament is reported to have spent 1.4 million pounds on alcohol to sell in the confines of Westminster to it´s members at a reduced and subsidised cost I might add (click here) it seems that they are happy to say ‘do as I say and not as I do’