1. This discussion paper sets out our strategic approach to tackling alcohol misuse. It illustrates the scale of alcohol-related harm in Scotland and how addressing this can help to deliver a Wealthier and Fairer, Safer and Stronger, Healthier and Smarter Scotland. Increasing trends in alcohol consumption mean that many Scots are now drinking above sensible guidelines. Over recent years, increased consumption has been influenced by factors such as a decline in the relative cost of alcohol; increased availability; and changing cultural attitudes. Excessive alcohol consumption is closely linked to harm: the more we drink, the greater the risks. It is clear that alcohol misuse is no longer a marginal problem. Nor is it one that affects only binge drinkers or those who are dependent on alcohol.
2. Many actions are already underway which will contribute to tackling both the underlying causes of, and the negative effects resulting from, Scotland's complex relationship with alcohol. These include the Government Economic Strategy, our policy statement on Early Years and Early Intervention, and Equally Well, the Ministerial Taskforce on Health Inequalities report. But the evidence shows that more direct and effective action to tackle alcohol misuse is needed if we are to maximise our potential as individuals, families, communities and as a country.
3. To deliver the long-term sustainable change required it essential that Government works in partnership with a wide range of partners. Based on knowledge and understanding of alcohol misuse, its drivers, and evidence-based interventions, sustained action is required in four broad areas:
- reduced alcohol consumption;
- supporting families and communities;
- positive public attitudes towards alcohol and individuals better placed to make positive choices about the role of alcohol in their lives; and
- improved support and treatment for those who require it.
4. The Framework for Action sets out measures to reduce alcohol-related harm in Scotland, forming the basis of a comprehensive strategic approach which will contribute to achieving a successful and flourishing Scotland. The sections set out key actions already underway; existing commitments for action; and new proposals on which views are invited. In particular, we seek views on:
- further action to end irresponsible promotion and below-cost selling of alcoholic drinks in licensed premises (p18);
- the introduction of minimum retail pricing of alcohol (p20);
- what particular information parents would find helpful in relation to alcohol (p23);
- raising the minimum purchase age to 21 in off-sales (p27);
- the introduction of a 'social responsibility fee' applied to some alcohol retailers to offset the costs of dealing with the consequences of alcohol misuse (p31);
- further restrictions on promotional material in licensed premises (p40); and
- the desirability of separate checkouts for alcohol sales (p41).
A full list of consultation questions is at Annex H and details of how to respond are at Annex I.