This Government is ambitious for Scotland. We want to create a more successful country, with opportunities for all Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth. To deliver that purpose we have set out the strategic objectives and specific outcomes we want to achieve. We believe passionately that Scotland's people have the talent, the energy and the ambition to be a self-confident beacon of success - but the reality is that Scotland's current relationship with alcohol is undermining our potential as individuals, families, communities and as a country. If we are to fulfil our ambitions, we must rebalance our relationship with alcohol.
We are not anti alcohol, we are anti alcohol misuse. We do not wish to 'demonise' alcohol as a 'bad thing' per se. When approached sensibly, the consumption of alcohol can be a pleasurable and sociable activity.
However, the evidence of the scale of alcohol-related harm affecting Scotland is clear, as is the demand for action. The question is no longer whether Government should act but how far reaching our actions should be. Previous actions have tackled some specific aspects of the problem. But alcohol misuse continues to act as a brake on Scotland's social and economic growth, costing us an estimated £2.25 billion each year. Alcohol-related anti-social behaviour and violence affect too many of our communities and are among the social problems that people care most about. Alcohol misuse represents a major risk to our health: over 40,000 people each year in Scotland are hospitalised with an alcohol related illness; and Scotland now has one of the fastest growing chronic liver disease and cirrhosis rates in the world. And we know that these problems disproportionately affect those living in our most deprived communities. We need to act decisively and comprehensively to tackle the true scale of the problems across our society if we are to realise our ambition of a successful and flourishing Scotland.
This Government will not shirk from the challenge. The proposals in this document are ambitious for Scotland. International evidence suggests that turning the tide will take time and will require a strategic approach. So we begin now with a determination to succeed. We can no longer afford to view alcohol misuse simply as an individual choice, whether that be occasional drunkenness or long term excessive drinking. Scotland can no longer afford the consequences.
We have already taken action, such as making a record new investment of £85m in alcohol prevention and treatment services and in legislating to restrict the display of alcohol within retail premises. But the time is now right to develop a comprehensive framework for tackling alcohol misuse. This discussion paper outlines a robust package of measures, some of which we are already committed to, as well as new proposals on which we invite comment. I very much hope it will spark discussion and debate about Scotland's relationship with alcohol and how we can re-balance that relationship for good.
Nicola Sturgeon MSP
Deputy First Minister & Cabinet Secretary for Health & Wellbeing