MSPs voted by 72 to 47 against the proposals and although the vote is not binding on ministers, some commentators say the plan is now “dead in the water”.
During a lively exchange with Labour leader Iain Gray this week, Salmond said pilot schemes had been successful and supported by retailers. He attacked the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties for simply opposing the proposals without contributing to the consultation process.
Gray described the plan as “daft”, pointing out that if was adopted, 18-year-olds could work in, manage and even own off-licences but would not be allowed to purchase their own products.
Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, said the debate showed “just how out of step the Scottish Government is with the public when it comes to tackling alcohol related harm”.
In the debate, Salmond rejected claims that current laws to curb under-age drinking were not being applied.
Beadles disagreed. “Raising the drinking age, even in the pilot projects referenced, will not reduce alcohol misuse,” he said. “It is through strictly enforcing the laws we have that progress will be made.
“In fact, only 15 out of over 17,000 licences were revoked in 2006. There were also only 131 recorded offences for buying alcohol, or consuming in a bar, under age; but action was only taken against seven. Without additional enforcement, the culture around drink in Scotland will not change.”