12/23/2015 12:00 EST | Updated 12/23/2016 00:12 EST

EU court deals blow to Scottish move to tackle heavy drinking with minimum alcohol price

BRUSSELS — Europe's top court has dealt a blow to Scotland's attempts to set a minimum price for alcohol, but left the door open for higher taxes.

The pricing legislation was passed in 2012 to discourage heavy drinking, particularly of strong, cheap alcohol. It aimed to protect health by hiking the price of high-strength drinks including the national tipple, whisky.

But opponents like the Scottish Whisky Association went to court, arguing that the minimum price would restrict trade and distort competition.

The European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday that a law setting a drink's price based on alcohol content would significantly restrict the market.

The court suggested instead that Scotland could discourage heavy drinking with a tax measure that would raise the price of all alcoholic drinks.

The Associated Press