Scottish licensed retailers could face severe restrictions on trade as early as next spring if proposed legislation is passed by the Scottish Government.

The Alcohol etc (Scotland) Bill would ban discounted multibuys and promotions outside a store's alcohol section. It would also place a duty on licensing boards to consider raising the off-sales purchase age to 21 and introduce a 'social responsibility fee' on some retailers to offset the costs of dealing with alcohol-related problems. The ruling Scottish National Party is expected to want to implement the measures before the parliamentary election in May 2011.

Scottish Grocers Federation (SGF) chief executive John Drummond believes the moves would unfairly affect smaller stores. "We believe that if the ban on multibuy discounts is implemented the multiples will simply sell cases cheaper, and discontinue individual bottles," he told C-Store.

The ban on promotions would be particularly damaging, he said. "Marketing would be restricted to one area, and window bills and promotional leaflets would be banned. We believe leaflets distributed to the local area are essential tools for small businesses that cannot afford newspaper or TV advertising."

The proposals also include a minimum unit price for alcohol, which small stores cautiously support as it would establish a level playing field. However, stores in the south of Scotland expect to suffer as customers cross the border for lower prices.

SGF aims to persuade MSPs that existing legislation is sufficient. "The laws already exist and we'll be advising them to enforce what they've got," Drummond said.

The second stage of the Bill goes to the vote when MSPs return in September.