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Supermarkets urged to give Scots a festive amnesty on discount drink

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Supermarket giants have been urged to give Scots a festive amnesty allowing them to buy drink with loyalty cards and discount vouchers.

The Scottish Government says booze can be included in some discount deals – but supermarkets are playing safe by excluding alcohol entirely from their promotions north of the Border.

Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose all currently offer shoppers discounts on their shopping, if they spend a certain amount.

But the small print on most money-off vouchers from the big UK retail chains makes it clear that in Scotland, any alcohol purchases are excluded, because of minimum pricing laws.

Labour MP Paul Sweeney said the rules should be relaxed during the festive period so Scots shoppers can enjoy bargains.

He said: “There should be a degree of leeway applied to the rather blunt legislation at this time of year for grocery promotions and perhaps include certain alcoholic drinks such as table wine in these.

“Food and drink is expensive enough without further penalising those who can least afford it.”

Another MSP, Jackie Baillie, recently wrote to Health Secretary Jeane Freeman on behalf of a constituent who was prevented from using his Waitrose loyalty vouchers towards alcohol purchases.

She said: “While I understand and applaud the motivation of supermarket’s wanting to comply with legislation, in this case the rules allow for some flexibility.

“On that basis I would encourage supermarkets to allow their loyal customers to use discount vouchers when buying alcohol when it is part of a basket of other food.”

Joe Fitzpatrick, Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, said the responsibility for accepting vouchers or discounts is at the discretion of the retailers themselves.

He explained: “You are able to use loyalty vouchers or reward cards to pay for all or part of a transaction which includes alcohol, as your points act as a cash equivalent.”

He added, however, that this only applies “as long as the use of loyalty schemes does not take the price paid for the alcohol below the minimum unit price of the alcohol included in the transaction”.

Waitrose offers its loyalty card shoppers tailored discounts such as being able to save £8 when spending £40 in store or saving £10 when spending £100 online.

However, terms and conditions on the back of the vouchers make it clear that in Scotland, this excludes alcohol purchases.

Similar restrictions apply to numerous cash-saving vouchers and codes available online for people spending varying minimum amounts at UK-wide retailers such as Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s.