The Scottish Government today proposed legally enforceable minimum pricing to stop strong drink from being sold "for pocket money prices" as it unveiled its strategy for tackling alcohol abuse.
The strategy, called Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action, aims to:
- Introduce a minimum price for a unit of alcohol
- Establish a legal obligation on licensing boards to consider whether alcohol-related problems in their area warrant an off-sales purchase age of 21, with local police Chief Constables able to request this at any time
- Ban off-sales promotions such as ‘three for two' and cut-price offers, and ban selling alcohol as a loss leader
- Restrict the display and marketing of alcohol products to specified areas in off-sales premises
Those measures which require new legislation to implement will be included as part of the forthcoming Criminal Justice and Licensing Bill.
Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, who unveiled the strategy alongside Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, said "the time has come for serious action" with alcohol abuse estimated to cost Scotland £2.25b a year.
"It is no longer an option for anyone to simply talk about the problem of alcohol misuse but shy away from the action needed to tackle it, so I hope all Parliamentarians and others who care about Scotland's health will support the measures outlined today," she said.
Mike Benner, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), backed the crackdown on supermarkets that sell alcohol as a loss leader
"It is irresponsible and reckless for the major supermarkets to sell alcohol at below cost," he said. "Well-run community pubs are being undermined as a result of unfair competition. Supermarkets are subsidising alcohol loss leaders by higher prices elsewhere in their stores which is not something a pub can do."
But the Scottish Beer and Pub Association (SBPA) warned that licensees will be disappointed that the Government is trying to introduce further changes to Scotland's new licensing system with less than six months to go to its introduction.
"That is further uncertainty and cost Scotland's licensed and hospitality industries just don't need given the toughening trading conditions," said SBPA chief executive Patrick Browne.
By Daniel Thomas
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