Page last updated at 13:11 GMT, Tuesday, 24 June 2008 14:11 UK

Ministers scotch whisky tour fear

Whisky bottles
The whisky industry was worried about the future of promotional events

Ministers have moved to allay whisky industry fears that the offer of free drams during distillery tours could be banned under an alcohol crackdown.

Bosses feared that restrictions on promotional activities could signal the end for the traditional complementary drink at the end of tours.

They warned that the prospect could be damaging to the industry and lead to a drop in visitor numbers.

But the Scottish Government insisted free tour drams would be protected.

A spokesman said: "We can be absolutely clear that changing the arrangements whereby distilleries can offer a dram to visitors during a tour is not something we are considering."

The proposed ban on promotional activities in licensed premises which encourage the purchase and consumption of alcohol off the premises was among a raft of measures put forward by the government in a bid to tackle binge-drinking culture.

Our robust proposals for tackling alcohol misuse go hand-in-hand with supporting a successful Scottish drinks industry
Government spokesman

The Scotch Whisky Association had called for urgent clarification on the issue.

A spokesman said: "The Scottish Government's confirmation that current distillery practice will be unaffected is very welcome."

Other proposals offered by the government last week included a minimum price for alcohol and raising the minimum age for buying drink in supermarkets and off-sales to 21.

The government said the proposals were aimed at tackling a problem estimated to cost Scotland 2.25bn a year.

Anti-alcohol campaigners voiced support for the measures, but retailers were opposed.

'Finalised strategy'

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "Our robust proposals for tackling alcohol misuse go hand-in-hand with supporting a successful Scottish drinks industry, including Scotch whisky, as a sector which marries economic growth with promotion of a sensible and responsible approach to drinking.

"Government doesn't have all the answers and we recognise that we need to work in partnership with health professionals, local authorities, criminal justice partners, the third sector and the alcohol industry in order to successfully deliver.

"The consultation period for the alcohol misuse strategy will run until 9 September. We will fully consider the responses and expect to publish a finalised strategy by the end of the year."


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