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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 September 2007, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Cut-price alcohol deals face ban
Woman lying on a bench

Cut-price and free alcohol offers in Scottish shops are to be made illegal in a bid to tackle the nation's "destructive" drinking culture.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said licensing laws would be extended to outlaw drink promotions in corner shops, supermarkets and other stores.

Alcohol-related illness kills six people in Scotland every day.

But convenience store retailers claimed the plan was poorly thought out and would lead to cheaper drink.

Mr MacAskill said the perception of "drinking to get drunk" should no longer be seen as acceptable.

Under the measures, which have come at the start of a long-term drive, shops will also be required to have separate alcohol display areas - a move which will come into effect in 2009.

The proposals display a lack of understanding about how retail businesses work
John Drummond
Scottish Grocers Federation

It is hoped the other restrictions can be brought in early next year.

As well as trying to ban promotions such as buy-two-get-one-free deals, ministers are also taking legal advice on how to end the practice of "deep-discounting", where shops sell alcohol at an artificially low price.

Mr MacAskill insisted the Scottish Government was not pro-prohibition or anti-alcohol, but was instead taking a stand against excessive drinking culture.

"From young people rampaging the streets shouting abuse at passers by to people dying in our hospitals of alcoholic liver disease - alcohol misuse has a lot to answer for," he told the Alcohol Focus Scotland annual conference in Aviemore.

"I won't stand by and do nothing, watching alcohol misuse tighten its grip and continue to wreak havoc on the lives of people up and down Scotland.

"By taking action to turn off the tap of cheap drink, to end irresponsible promotions wherever alcohol is sold, and making sure alcohol isn't sold at every turn in the supermarket, I believe we can turn this around."

Below cost

However John Drummond, chief executive of the Scottish Grocers Federation, said the measures would not get to the root of Scotland's drinking problems.

"The proposals will actually force supermarkets to cut prices even further below cost," he claimed.

"Instead of three for 10 we will see one bottle for 3.30 or even less. The proposals display a lack of understanding about how retail businesses work."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Ross Finnie said the announcement was a "good step", but added: "The responsible drinking campaign simply will not work if the Grocers Federation and other retailers are not on side."

Margaret Curran, Labour justice spokeswoman, added: "It remains unacceptable that alcohol priced cheaper than a bottle of water can be purchased from any retailer.

"Kenny MacAskill has the powers to clampdown on those caught selling to under 18s and he must use them."

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