The Scottish Government in June launched a consultation document on tackling alcohol misuse.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "We can no longer sit back and let alcohol misuse continue to take its shocking toll on our criminal justice system, health service and economy. In criminal justice alone we know that two-thirds of murders are fuelled by drink and almost half of prisoners admitting to being drunk when they offended,
"Alcohol is part of Scottish culture, and we value the contribution of the industry to our economy and national life, but we’ve got our drinking out of kilter. It’s not the drink, it’s how we’re drinking it. I believe these proposals will help us build on the changes brought in by the Licensing Act, such as ending happy hours in pubs and clubs and bringing in separate display areas for alcohol.
"They can kick-start the long term cultural shift in our society that we need. For example our Social Responsibility Fee can help pay for the costs of alcohol misuse, while minimum pricing will reduce the availability of high strength low cost alcohol .
"I’d encourage everyone to take the time to get involved, look at these proposals and think about your own alcohol consumption. Together we can help get Scotland’s relationship with alcohol back on the level."
The consultation document refers to many statistics that reinforce the need for a new approach to tackling alcohol misuse, including:
The total cost of alcohol misuse in Scotland is estimated at £2.25 billion per year – £500 for every adult living in Scotland
Alcohol-related visits to Scottish hospitals have increased by almost 50 per cent over the last decade and alcohol-related death rates have more than doubled
Almost half (45 per cent) of Scottish prisoners in 2007 said they were drunk at the time of the offence
95 per cent of respondents to the Scottish Crime and Victimisation Survey (SCVS) 2006 saw alcohol abuse in Scotland as a problem.
Ministers launched the consultation, which will run until September 9, in Armadale, West Lothian, which recently ran a successful six-week pilot in which the purchase of off-sales alcohol was restricted to over-21s at weekends. The trial resulted in a drop in calls about antisocial behaviour, youth drinking and vandalism.
Following the consultation, the Scottish Government envisages legislating in time for many of the measures to coincide with the new Licensing Act coming into force on September 1, 2009.