Proposals to introduce a minimum price for alcoholic drinks in Scotland face delay after being added to a new Health Bill that will not go before the Scottish Parliament until later this year.

Scotland's ruling National Party (SNP) said yesterday (24 March) that it would add its proposals to tackle alcohol-related harm, including minimum pricing, to a new Health Bill.

The move represents a minor victory for industry lobbyists and opposition parties, who had argued that the SNP could not avoid a Parliamentary vote by tagging its proposals onto existing legislation, as it had originally intended.

The need for fresh legislation means that the SNP's proposals will take longer to implement than previously planned, and run the risk of being shot down by a coalition of opposition MPs.

The Health Bill will be introduced to Parliament later this year, the SNP said, without giving specific dates.

A minimum price per unit of alcohol was officially proposed by the SNP on 2 March. Other plans designed to tackle alcohol abuse, which the SNP claims costs Scotland's economy GBP2.25bn annually, include a clampdown on special offers in the off-trade. Local authorities would also be given powers to raise the legal age for buying alcohol in shops from 18 to 21.

Drinks trade bodies and several large companies have taken legal advice on the minimum pricing plan, with a view to mounting a challenge in the courts should the measure be approved by Parliament.

just-drinks understands that advice received to date indicates that minimum pricing would contravene EU competition law. Privately, drinks industry leaders believe the SNP does not yet have a clear idea of how to make minimum pricing work.