The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has warned that minimum pricing will not address the issue of alcohol harm.

Responding to the Scottish Government's long-awaited Alcohol Bill published today (26 November), which includes powers for ministers to set a minimum price for alcohol, the association said the policy was "probably illegal" under EU law and would damage Scotch at home and in export markets.

However, whilst rejecting minimum pricing, the SWA said it believes that a viable alternative would be to consider measures to tackle loss-leading sales of alcohol.

"The industry agrees there is a need to tackle alcohol misuse," said Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the SWA. "We support moves to regulate the display of alcohol, tough enforcement of existing licensing laws, and would back a ban on below cost sales to tackle loss leading of alcohol."

However, he added: "Opposition parties' recognition that minimum pricing is not the answer to alcohol misuse in Scotland has been welcome.

"We must now develop a broad consensus around effective measures. We want to work in partnership with all parties in a way that directly tackles harm, but ensures the economic sustainability of the wider economy in which the Scotch Whisky industry plays a vital role.

"The evidence of research on minimum pricing is that the heaviest drinkers are less likely to adjust their drinking than moderate consumers. Minimum pricing is illegal and the Scottish Government has less trade restrictive means available to tackle alcohol harm."

In September, the Scottish Government ignored advice from competition officials and said it would press ahead with its plan to set a minimum price on alcoholic drinks, claiming the policy could save hundreds of lives every year.

The Scottish Labour party today also argued against the move, which has the backing of health groups and pub trade representatives.

"We're not going to support minimum units pricing…firstly because it seems to us a policy to increase the profits of Tesco and Asda and they make quite enough money already," a spokesperson for Scottish Labour told just-drinks.

"Partly because its legality has been called into question by the European Court, and the (majority) Scottish National Party has refused to share the legal advice with us. If they're not willing to share such basic information, that raises serious questions about their genuine desire to build a consensus."