Multi-buy deals on alcohol will be
banned under new plans set out by the Scottish government.
Retailers will face tough restrictions on the way they promote alcohol in a move to tackle Scotland's binge drinking culture.
Any promotion that provides alcohol free, or as part of a cut-price deal, will be outlawed and drinks shops will also be forced to display alcohol in specially designated areas.
The plans were announced at Alcohol Focus Scotland's annual conference by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.
MacAskill said: "These measures will also support long-term change in all our drinking habits." He added that separate alcohol display areas in shops will "help remind people that alcohol is not just another commodity ".
But the industry has hit back. The Scottish Grocers Federation said the measures will force retailers to cut prices even further below cost. SGF chief executive John Drummond said: "Instead of three-for-£10 we will see one bottle for £3.30 or even less. Forcing retailers to compete only on price will squeeze margins, encourage loss-leading and threaten the existence of hundreds of community stores across the country."
The Wine & Spirit Trade Association said it had not seen any evidence that off-trade promotions increase alcohol misuse. Chief executive Jeremy Beadles said: "Rather than hiding alcohol away and penalising the whole population with controls on pricing and promotions, we should continue to work together to find evidence-based, targeted solutions that will actually make a difference to the underlying problems of misuse."
The proposals pose a serious problem to the Thresher Group, which runs three-for-two deals across its estate. Supermarkets and convenience shops will not be able to cross-promote alcohol
with food in store.
A consultation on draft regulations on price promotions will be issued shortly with regulations being made in early 2008, while the rules on separate alcohol display areas will be introduced with the Licensing (Scotland) Act in 2009.