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NATS IN PLAN TO BAN CHEAP BOOZE; Superstores face crackdown.

Byline: By Magnus Gardham

CHEAP supermarket booze will be banned under a nationalist government, the SNP pledged yesterday.

Delegates at the party's conference in Perth voted overwhelmingly to ban stores from selling alcohol as a "loss leader" - priced artificially low to lure customers in.

They also voted to raise the legal age for buying tobacco from 16 to 18 and to ban alcohol adverts on kids' football strips as part of a tough package to improve the nation's health.

SNP culture spokesman Stewart Maxwell said the cheap drink ban was vital to halt the booze culture which costs the economy pounds 1.1billion per year in NHS bills and lost work days.

He said: "One of the problems we face in our society is alcohol abuse.

"It's something we have tried to ignore for many years, but it is something we really have to face up to."

Supermarket booze is now more than 50 per cent cheaper in real terms than it was in 1980.

During the World Cup, supermarkets sold 24-can packs of beer for less than pounds 10, making it cheaper than bottled water.

Maxwell accused the big stores of putting pressure on brewers to sell cheaply - then lowering prices even further.

He said that was "totally and utterly irresponsible" and the SNP would use the "big stick" of the law to ban supermarkets from selling alcohol below cost price if the brewers and stores could not reach a voluntary agreement.

Maxwell insisted banning cheap booze would not be a vote-loser in the Holyrood election next May.

Delegates' votes on replica football kits would affect Rangers and Celtic, who are sponsored by Carling and sell junior strips with and without the lager logo.

The ban would also affect Hibs, sponsored by Whyte & Mackay, and the Scotland rugby team, who feature the Famous Grouse name on shirts.

But Maxwell said children should not be "walking billboards" for drinks firms.

Previous efforts to fix minimum booze prices have been ruled out by the Competition Commission.

However, Maxwell insisted that the Scottish parliament had the power to ban loss-leaders.

The Federation of Small Businesses, who represent independent shopkeepers, welcomed the move.

A spokesman said: "We believe all loss-leaders should be banned because supermarkets use them to drive out competition."

But Sainsbury's defended cut-price drink promotions.

Their spokesman said last night: "These promotions are popular with our customers because they offer outstanding value."

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SUPERMARKET SWEEP: Maxwell, right, wants to ban cheap booze in stores
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 13, 2006
Words:414
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