SNP ministers killed off plans to exclude alcohol sponsors from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow amid concerns for the whisky industry, official files reveal.

The decision was a defeat for then Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon, who repeatedly tried to keep drink sponsors out of the sporting festival.

However her colleagues wanted to use the Games to promote Scottish food and drink, including whisky.

The cabinet split is revealed in official papers disclosed by National Records of Scotland under its 15-year rule.

They show Ms Sturgeon twice proposed excluding drink sponsors from the Games as it would be “incompatible” with having health improvement as a legacy ambition of the event.

But her cabinet colleagues said the SNP government must not be “unduly critical” of the drinks industry.

And while an alcohol sponsor-free Games was a “laudable ambition”, it jarred with plans “to promote Scottish food and drink” at them.

With “whisky and similar products” expected to be part of any hospitality packages, the government’s messages had to be “intellectually consistent”, the deputy FM was told.

After the pushback - and the involvement of Alex Salmond - Ms Sturgeon abandoned her plan, and the Games were ultimately sponsored by two drinks industry giants.

In June 2008, Ms Sturgeon took a discussion paper to cabinet on tackling alcohol misuse which contained a comprehensive “and in some cases controversial” range of measures.

It proposed minimum unit pricing, separate alcohol checkouts, raising the age for off-sales purchases from 18 to 21, and restricting alcohol advertising and sponsorship, “particularly with regards to sponsorship in sport”, including at the Commonwealth Games.

The minutes of the cabinet meeting record: “Ms Sturgeon said that health improvement was one of the most important proposed legacy benefits of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and that there was a risk that alcohol sponsorship of the Games could be seen as incompatible with this.

"She said that the consultation proposed exploring options for making the Games free from alcohol sponsorship.”

Ms Sturgeon emphasised the proposals “were not aimed against the alcohol industry”, and that none of the proposals “touched explicitly upon the whisky sector”.

However the cabinet resisted, saying it was “important that the consultation document should not be set out in language that was seen to be unduly critical of the alcohol industry”, which already banned sponsorship of events aimed at children and young people.

Other ministers also questioned excluding drink sponsors from the Glasgow Games.

With the Government one of the partners behind the Games and its legacy “it would be important to ensure consistency of messaging, and consideration of the option to run a

voluntary alcohol-sponsorship-free games presented potential inconsistencies in the Government's approach, which required further exploration”, the minutes record.

“The Government had, for example, already made clear that it proposed to use the Games to promote Scottish food and drink. 

“There was a tension between any aspiration for an alcohol-sponsorship-free Games and the Government's intention to allow the continuation of alcohol sponsorship of other sporting and social events, many of which were already reliant on the contractual support.

“Nonetheless, it was clear that undue reliance on alcohol sponsorship had the potential to jeopardise the health legacy or the Games, albeit that the evidence suggested that availability and price were the key issues requiring attention in controlling alcohol intake, rather than promotion and advertising.”

The cabinet agreed to publish the consultation but “subject to a further paper addressing the advertising and sponsorship issues in more detail”.

The following week, Ms Sturgeon brought back a revised paper, reassuring ministers the section on sponsorship had been “redrafted considerably”.

However she said it “retained the aspiration of having the 2014 Commonwealth Games free from alcohol branded sponsorship” - an aspiration which did not go down well with some.

The ensuing discussion noted “it was important that the messages in the alcohol strategy and national food and drink policy should be consistent and not lead to confusion”.

The minutes record: “There was concern… that although a key desired legacy of the Games was a healthier nation and alcohol-free branding of the Games was a laudable ambition, this might not sit comfortably with the national food and drink policy and the articulated ambition to use the games to promote Scottish food and drink.

“As it was reasonable to expect that whisky and similar products would be served as part of any hospitality package around the Games, it was important to ensure that this approach and the position taken with regard to alcohol sponsorship of the Games should be intellectually consistent”.

The cabinet agreed the final wording of the section on alcohol sponsorship would be agreed by Ms Sturgeon and First Minister Alex Salmond.

When the consultation was published in June, all mention of the Commonwealth Games had been removed, and the government said it had “no plans at this stage to introduce statutory restrictions on alcohol sponsorship”.

After negative feedback, plans to introduce separate alcohol checkouts and raise the off-sales purchase age were later dropped, but minimum unit pricing went ahead.

In the spring of 2014, Heineken was named as the “official beer and cider provider” of Glasgow 2014 and the Famous Grouse was named as the official whisky of the Games.