Nearly 130 branches of Haddows, Threshers and Victoria Wine will shut, with the loss of 688 staff nationwide, the firm’s administrators said. Outlets operating as Wine Rack and The Local will also be affected.

The latest wave of closures means Scotland will start the New Year with just 41 First Quench-owned stores and 29 branches of Oddbins, as well as local independents and smaller operations.

Earlier this year, the country had over 250 off-licences operated by major chains -- meaning the number has more than halved in the space of just a few months.

Buyers have yet to be found for the 41 stores that survive in the First Quench stable, meaning that they too could be forced to close if the situation does not improve. A further 50 closures have already been announced in the past month, wiping the once-familiar names from high streets across Scotland.

Commentators united in blaming the traditional off-licence’s demise on the rise of price-cutting supermarkets.

Scottish Grocers’ Federation chief executive John Drummond described the cuts as "the first major impact" of "very aggressive" super-market competition.

Hundreds of off-licence employees now face a "very bleak" Christmas, he said, adding that the Scottish Government’s proposals for minimum pricing could have provided a vital boost for the ailing industry.

Mr Drummond said: "While we oppose Government intervention on trading practices, there is no doubt that minimum pricing would create a more level playing field across the whole market -- supermarkets, convenience stores, off-licences and the on-trade in pubs and clubs."

Colin Wilkinson, secretary of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said it was "no wonder" off-licence chains were feeling the pressure, given the market share carved out by major supermarkets.

Adding that the situation was "even worse" for the on-trade, he said his organisation had been "very disappointed" by Holyrood’s decision not to back Government plans for an alcohol price floor.

The closures announced by First Quench administrator KPMG yesterday are

part of a wider cut-back across the UK.

There will be a total of 2140 redundancies at 391 stores nationwide, with all of them -- including those in Scotland -- set to close their doors for the last time by December 20 at the latest.

Scotland had escaped the previous round of cuts, which saw 381 stores earmarked for closure on November 20, but the latest announcement means job losses in every Scottish city and in many smaller towns.

Each of the 128 branches employed between three and 10 people, making a total

of 688.

Richard Fleming, joint administrator of First Quench at KPMG, said his firm had worked hard to sell the off-licences since being appointed in October. "Unfortunately, despite the initial high level of interest, it remains difficult for buyers to complete deals in the current tough market," he said.

Earlier yesterday a buyer was confirmed for the Wine Rack name and some stores in south-east England, but the sale did not improve the situation north of the border.

Closing-down sales are due to begin on December 1.