Supermarkets and off-sales are to be targeted in a bid to stem Scotland's culture of binge-drinking and antisocial behaviour, the minister in charge of alcohol licensing signalled yesterday.

In his first statements on plans to tackle the country's risky relationship with drink, Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill said supermarket multi-pack beer deals would fall foul of curbs on alcohol promotions.

Mr MacAskill said he wanted "to see licensees smarten up their act" and that alcohol should no longer be seen as being "no different from bananas or soap powder".

The decision to move the licensing brief from local government to his justice remit was defended by the former lawyer on the grounds of alcohol's role in anti-social behaviour.

Mr MacAskill has also attempted to exorcise the ghosts of his own past by referring to his arrest at the England v Scotland game at Wembley in 1999 for drunk and disorderly behaviour. He said he was "big enough to admit my own past mistakes" and "recognised the error of my ways".

Mr MacAskill said: "I want to crack down on irresponsible promotions and discounts of alcohol. Last weekend, a major supermarket in my constituency was selling a popular lager at £20 for 60 cans as part of a buy two get one free offer'.

"That works out at around 33p per can or 43p per pint. That sort of offer is increasingly common, but it's not acceptable. There is something perverse in Scotland that a bottle of cider can cost less than a bottle of water.

"Of course we all like a bargain, but it shows we have come to think of alcohol as no different from bananas or soap powder. That cannot be right."

Although the new licensing act, passed two years ago, does not come into effect until September 2009, it allows for additional regulations on issues such as promotions without the need for legislative amendment. Legal experts claim the administration has the mechanisms to introduce minimum pricing.

"The new licensing act bans certain types of promotions in pubs and clubs and some in shops," said Mr MacAskill. "I want to look at what other types of promotion should be restricted - for example, those that can encourage people to buy, and drink, more than they intended, such as buy-one get-one-free or multi-pack deals."

Recent figures show just 39% of alcohol is now sold in traditional licensed premises such as bars, pubs, nightclubs, hotels and restaurants. Of the rest, the six big supermarkets control 83.3% of the remaining sales.

Tesco alone sells almost one-third of all off-trade drink, while 80% of wine, 75% of spirits and 60% of cider is sold off-trade.

Medical professionals and alcohol action groups have been calling for promotional curbs to be extended to off-sales and supermarkets.

Mr MacAskill said he also supported the roll-out of the test purchasing scheme piloted in Fife and efforts made by some retailers to prevent sales to underage drinkers. But he added: "The fact remains that young people are still obtaining alcohol from retailers and these retailers are cashing in illegally in making that sale."

Paul Waterson, of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said: "We're now a nation of take-home drinkers but the law and the new act reflects old-fashioned trends of drinking in pubs and clubs. If we cannot regulate prices within the off-trade, Mr MacAskill should look at how it's marketed. I can't disagree with much he's said."

The Scottish Grocer's Federation's Gordon Macrae was less enthusiastic. He said: "Instead of criticising us, why not help us with a national proof-of-age scheme. The executive should smarten up."

One of Scotland's leading authorities on liquor law, Jack Cummins said: "The new licensing act allows ministers to beef-up controls on irresponsible promotions. The SNP administration could move very quickly on this."