Page last updated at 10:29 GMT, Monday, 2 March 2009

Scots plan to stop cheap alcohol

Bottles in fridge
The Scottish Government said it planned to ban discount deals

Measures to tackle alcohol abuse by stopping cut-price offers have been outlined by the Scottish Government.

It has proposed a range of measures including the radical step of a minimum price per unit. It would be the first country in Europe to take the step.

The minority government said it also plans to ban discount deals on alcohol.

SNP ministers decided against raising the off-sales age limit to 21 - but will create powers to allow such curbs to be imposed on a local basis.

Local chief constables will also be able to request such a move.

Other measures include restricting the display and marketing of drink to specific areas within off-sales premises.

Scottish ministers also plan to create legal powers to introduce a "social responsibility fee" for some retailers.

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They decided not to go ahead with proposals to introduce alcohol-only checkouts in supermarkets and shops.

They said this had been opposed, particularly from small retailers, who lacked the floor space and staff.

Ministers denied being "anti-alcohol", amid opposition party concern that the proposals were being forced through.

The Scottish Government plans to use the existing licensing act to introduce the minimum price per unit of alcohol.

The details of that will be worked out with economists to find the most effective level.

The same law will also be modified to ban drinks offers such as buy one-get-one-free and prevent the use of alcohol as a "loss leader".

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon explains why she wants to raise the price of alcohol

The paper outlining the plans pointed out that some retailers had moved away from quantity discounts to straight price cuts such as selling 24 can packs of lager for £7 or premium vodka at £6 for a 70cl bottle.

Ministers said they did not believe alcohol should be discounted in the same way as other commodities.

The blueprint said the amount of advertising by supermarkets over recent months suggested that cheap alcohol did play a key role in determining where people shop.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "Plummeting prices and aggressive promotion have led to a surge in consumption, causing and adding to health problems ranging from liver and heart diseases to diabetes, obesity, dementia and cancers.

"We have listened to those who responded to the consultation and modified our proposals where appropriate.

READ THE ALCOHOL STRATEGY

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"But we remain determined to press ahead with tough policies to tackle alcohol misuse."

The Tories said the pricing plans were "horribly flawed", while Labour warned against rushing measures through.

It branded the SNP's proposals "an unworkable mess" and said they were "unsupportable" in their current form.

The Liberal Democrats warned against "stigmatising a generation" with the proposals to raise the off-sales purchase age.

Fiona Moriarty, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said the plans would add costs to responsible shoppers without making any difference to irresponsible drinking.

She said: "Irresponsible drinking is not about price or availability yet this is the main focus of the government's approach.

"We need to develop solutions that educate rather than alienate, instead the government has retreated to its bunker and is neither listening to the evidence presented nor willing to tackle these issues in a consensual manner."

Shoppers in Blackburn, West Lothian, give their views alcohol pricing

The Portman Group, an alcohol industry body which promotes responsible drinking, said the government was not listening to reason.

Chief executive David Poley said: "People who drink to get drunk would not be influenced by these measures.

"We should be targeting the harmful drinking minority through better education and effective law enforcement."

Paul Waterson, chief executive of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, welcomed the focus on the "irresponsible promotions and practices in off-sales".

He said: "Not only does the SLTA agree with minimum pricing, it's a view shared by licensed trade leaders from the rest of the UK and Ireland."

alcohol related death s graphic

Doctors and police leaders also backed the Scottish Government.

Dr Peter Terry, chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland, said: "We particularly welcome its proposals on minimum price and promotions, as evidence shows that the increased affordability of alcohol is driving the damaging levels of consumption in Scotland."

Det Ch Supt John Carnochan, spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, said: "Fundamentally, if you want to reduce violence then you need to reduce access to alcohol.

"We know that the group most at risk from violence is young males aged 10 -29, so if you limit access to alcohol in certain areas then it can only be a good thing, especially as it is done with local agreement and is locally relevant."

Jack Law, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: "Change won't happen overnight. But the combined efforts of government, health and police services, the alcohol industry, licensed trade and the voluntary sector should ensure significantly fewer Scots' lives are affected by alcohol misuse."

Graphic showing percentages exceeding daily drinking guidelines



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