The government and the newly elected Scottish Executive have come under fire following moves to tackle alcohol sales and promotions in the off-trade.

This week the government launched Safe, Sensible, Social: The next steps in the National Alcohol Strategy, in which it vowed to clamp down on underage sales. It also said it will launch a public consultation next year on alcohol pricing and promotion.

In Scotland, leaders of the new SNP-led Scottish government are using powers in the Licensing Act (Scotland) 2005 to crack down on cut-price alcohol in grocery stores. They will extend restrictions on drinks promotions from the on-trade to the off-trade.

Scottish Grocers' Federa­tion (SGF) chief executive John Drummond said it was misplaced to compare promotions in pubs and clubs with those in the off-trade. "There are no promotions to encourage shoppers to drink more alcohol more quickly"

A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said it would be happy to listen to the retail sector's views. But he added that the SNP had won an election following a pledge to tackle irresponsible drinks promotions in the off-trade.

In England, the public consultation will study the relationship between promotional activity and harmful consumption, particularly among young people. The government will look at the circumstances in which price - including discounting, advertising and other promotions - drive problem drinking.

British Retail Consortium (BRC) director general Kevin Hawkins said banning discounting on alcohol could fall foul of competition law and would penalise the vast majority of shoppers who took home bottles or cans of alcohol to drink over a period of time.

"Alcohol price-cutting by supermarkets doesn't create problem drinking. Very few supermarket customers buy just alcohol and it isn't aimed at immediate consumption," he said.