The Scottish Police Service said the proposal would be wrong and ineffective and risked “demonising and alienating perfectly law-abiding 18- to 20-year-olds”.
The police submission also warned that it could pose real problems for retailers. “You could have someone running an off-sales premises, with all the concomitant responsibilities, but who could not himself purchase any alcohol for his, or any other, off-sales premises,” it said.
Opposition from the police follows similar criticism from students, retailers, and from the Conservative Party, which voted against the issue after a high profile debate last week. The Scottish government was defeated by 72 votes to 47, but ministers insisted they would continue to pursue the plans. However, the intervention of Scotland’s police officers will now make it much harder for them to be approved.
Scottish Tory deputy leader Murdo Fraser commented: “The Scottish National Party (SNP) is creating a ludicrous situation whereby a soldier returning from a tour of duty at the age of 20 cannot buy a bottle of champagne to celebrate.”
Jeremy Beadles, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, added: “The continued push in Scotland to raise the drinking age despite widespread opposition demonstrates how large the gap is between public opinion and politicians.”
The idea of raising the age limit to 21 for off-sales is a central part of the SNP’s alcohol strategy. Other proposals include separate aisles for alcohol sales in shops, a curb on advertising, a ban on promotions, and a social responsibility fee for retailers.