Retailers fear Scotland's hardline under-21 policy

27 June, 2008

Drinks and retail industry associations have voiced strong opposition to Scottish proposals to ban alcohol sales to under-21s

and set minimum prices for drinks.

Plans for minimum prices were "absurd", while the prospect of banning under-21s from buying drinks in off-licences but allowing them to enter pubs was "farcical", claimed the Scottish Grocers' Federation .

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association

and Scottish Retail Consortium

accused Scottish ministers of chasing headlines and demonising alcohol.

The vitriolic responses followed the publication of Scotland's alcohol strategy document, announced by justice and health ministers

last week.

As well as pricing and age limits, other proposals are to end three-for-two promotions, create alcohol-only checkouts and force some retailers to pay a "social responsibility" fee towards the cost of tackling drink-relat ed crime.

Policy-makers and drinks retailers in England and Wales will

monitor developments closely.

WSTA spokesperson Gavin Partington told OLN there was a "clear precedent" for measures introduced in Scotland to move south of the border.

All drinks associations accepted the need to combat alcohol misuse in Scotland, which the government claims costs taxpayers 2.25

billion annually.

WSTA chief executive Jeremy Beadles said: " The message is simple.

[The government wants] Scottish families to pay more tax."

The Scotch Whisky Association delivered a more diplomatic response, calling the strategy document a "starting point for future debate ".

It steered clear of the proposed under-21 ban, but strongly attacked plans for minimum pricing.

Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill

said that he would not be swayed by industry lobbying. A consultation period will now follow, ending in September.

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