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II. INTERNATIONAL NEWS.
11. Scotland: Scots May Outlaw Cut-Price Alcohol
September 5, 2007
Scotland's new nationalist government intends to make cut-price and free alcohol offers in Scottish shops illegal in an attempt to tackle the nation's "destructive" drinking culture.
Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, said he would extend recent licensing legislation to outlaw irresponsible promotions and pricing in off-sales outlets. Shops would also be required to have separate alcohol display areas, to challenge the perception that alcohol was in the same category as fruit juice or water.
He said: "This is immediate action to kick-start a long-term drive to change Scotland's culture - to help make sure drinking to get drunk is simply no longer seen as acceptable. To end the days of 'buy two, get one free' type promotions reducing the cost of beer to as little as 43p a pint."
The Scottish National party minister said the Scottish government was taking legal advice on how it could end the practice of retailers discounting alcohol. He told Alcohol Focus Scotland's annual conference: "By taking action today 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."
However, the Scottish Grocers' Federation said ending multi-pack promotions would lead to shops competing purely on price, which could lower rather than raise the cost of alcohol. It also questioned the legal basis on which discounting could be controlled by Holyrood.
Alex Salmond, the first minister, later told MSPs that his minority administration would ask Holyrood to support 11 bills in the new parliamentary session. But he acknowledged that the SNP would need to persuade other parties and seek to find shared values and objectives. The proposed bills include the abolition of road bridge tolls, scrapping the endowment charge paid by graduates, budget legislation, modernisation of the courts system and reform of the law on rape.
Mr Salmond said: "In truth, most people already believe there is too much legislation and yearn for a more considered and more restricted approach. I embrace that sense of legislative restraint."
That "restraint" has been forced on Mr Salmond by his lack of an overall majority. But the first minister appears confident he will be able to construct majorities for each piece of legislation. He said: "We believe also that the people of Scotland want a government based on principle but able to move with mainstream opinion to build consensus in the public interest."
But Cathy Jamieson, the deputy Labour leader at Holyrood, said: "Perhaps the most significant things are not what is in the statement but what isn't. Despite the blizzard of briefing, it's now clear the SNP has no intention of actually delivering on its manifesto promises."
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