A report by Sheriff Principal Gordon Nicholson has proposed a relaxation in Scotland's licensing laws which will impose stricter controls on pub promotions such as "happy hours" and other promotional vehicles which are deemed to promote excessive consumption, while extending actual licensing hours.

Under the proposals, Scottish pubs and shops would be free to sell alcohol 24 hours a day and all day on Sundays.

The proposals were among some 90 recommendations made by the Nicholson committee, convened by the Scottish executive to look at alcohol-related crime, drink-related health problems and underage binge drinking. Scottish ministers and trade associations welcomed the proposals.

Among the main aims of the committee was to remove restrictions which were seen as "petty" but come down far more heavily on practices, notably in pubs and bars, which could be seen genuinely to cause anti-social behaviour and alcohol abuse.

While the committee did not directly advocate an end to "happy hours" by name, it said it should be a condition of the granting of a licence that bars or pubs did not engage in "irresponsible promotional activities" such as heavy price discounting for several hours.

The extension of opening hours was expected to have more impact on supermarkets and off licences than pubs and bars.

Scotland's Justice Minister, Cathy Jamieson, said there would now be a four-month consultation period, following which the executive would consider actual changes in the law.