The Scotch Whisky Association has attacked a proposal by the Scottish Government to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol in the country.

Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, today (3 September) set out the Scottish Government's programme for the coming year. In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, the FM outlined the Government's priorities contained in the document 'Towards a More Successful Scotland'.

"Alcohol misuse costs Scotland GBP2.25bn a year in extra services and lost productivity - nearly one-tenth of Scotland's annual budget," Salmond said. "A Bill to Tackle Alcohol Misuse will introduce innovative measures to reduce alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm, with a minimum pricing policy at its cornerstone."

In response to the proposal, however, the trade body warned that the Government's claims that minimum prices will not damage Scotch are "wrong and worryingly blind to the long-term harmful consequences for Scotch whisky sales globally".

A spokesperson for the SWA said this afternoon, "Minimum prices will hurt Scottish distillers at home and overseas. Government figures show little evidence that this measure will tackle alcohol misuse, begging the question how high the price of alcohol will have to be increased by Government, and penalising the majority in order to discourage the minority that drink excessively.

"To introduce a minimum price trade barrier requires Scotland to opt-out of international trade rules," the spokesperson continued. "Such an exemption can only be justified in very limited circumstances and no Government has advanced such a claim, even in relation to tobacco. The negative message the Scottish Government is sending out about Scotch is deeply concerning."

The spokesperson noted, however, that the organisation "welcomes the vast majority of the alcohol strategy and believe it could have sent out a more positive message internationally if taken forward in partnership".

The bill, further details of which can be found here, is expected to be put before the Scottish parliament within the next 12 months.