The Scottish Government’s plans to up the legal age of alcohol purchase to 21 has been slammed by retailers.

Convenience retailers claimed the decision, announced by First Minister Alex Salmond, would cost the sector millions of pounds, yet there was no evidence the legislation would work. They were also enraged he took the decision despite an ongoing consultation process.

The Scottish Grocers’ Federation called the move “ridiculous, discriminatory and punitive”, and claimed a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach was unlikely to solve the problem of underage drinking.

“Banning the sale of alcohol to under-21s in off-sales, minimum pricing and a social responsibility fee establish ridiculous anomalies,” said SGF chief executive John Drummond. “They penalise the majority of adults who drink responsibly and increase the burden of regulation and costs for responsible businesses already struggling with increased licence fees.”

He insisted SGF members were responsible retailers, many operating initiatives including Challenge 21, Challenge 25, ongoing staff training and refusal registers.

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association has also criticised the move. “Instead of enforcing the laws available, the SNP has decided headlines are more important,” said chief executive Jeremy Beadles.

The Association of Convenience Stores said retailers would bear the brunt of the change. “It’s difficult to refuse alcohol to 20-year olds who have been buying it legally for two years,” said public affairs director Shane Brennan.