MINISTERS have ruled out letting people buy booze earlier in the day during the coronavirus lockdown “given Scotland’s relationship with alcohol”. 

Cabinet Secretary Michael Russell last month revealed he was examining whether to extend licensing hours so that shops could sell drink before the current 10am start. 

It followed complaints that by dedicating their early morning hours to NHS workers and the elderly, supermarkets were making it harder for those people to buy alcohol.

At Holyrood’s Covid-19 committee, Tory convener Murdo Fraser asked why longer hours were not part of the government’s new Coronavirus (No2) Scotland Bill.

He said it seemed “unfair” that some people were encouraged to shop early in the morning, but then limited in what they could buy.

He said: “Those licensing laws... put an unreasonable restriction on individuals who can do their shopping only in the early hours of the day. I am talking about people who might be in vulnerable groups, or indeed, national health service workers.

“If they want to purchase alcohol, they have to come back at another time, when it is busier. It seems rather unfair to those individuals to be disadvantaged in that way.

“Has the Scottish Government considered that? Will amendments to the bill on the issue be looked at a later stage?” 

Mr Russell said the issue had been a concern when dedicated hours started, but that concern had fallen away “quite substantially” in recent weeks.

He said: “There was also a view that, given Scotland’s relationship with alcohol, extending licensing hours was not something that we wanted to do. 

“Some of the stakeholder groups made that pretty clear.”

“An extension to licensing hours is not in the Bill as drafted, the Scottish Government therefore does not intend to bring forward such provisions."

He said any amendments would "have to be incredibly tightly drawn" to apply only to those who could only shop outside current licensed hours, with the stores “pretty tightly controlled, given the potential for abuse”. 

He said: “There are some difficult technical, legal issues as well as a practical issue.”