In June 2008 the Scottish Government published a discussion paper on tackling alcohol misuse in Scotland. For the first time the full scale of the problem was revealed: that up to 50% of men and 30% of women are regularly drinking over sensible drinking guidelines, placing them at increased risk of being involved in accidents, becoming victims or perpetrators of crime, experiencing family break-up, or of developing cancer or liver disease.
The paper adopted a new and visionary approach, recognising the need to change Scotland's relationship with alcohol so that we can realise our potential as individuals, families, communities and as a nation.
The paper generated a great deal of discussion - as we hoped it would. The responses it received were broadly supportive of our overall approach, although not surprisingly there was a range of views on the specific measures proposed. The alcohol industry recognise there is a problem, although they consider it to be one requiring responses only targeted at specific groups in society. We remain firmly of the view that a broader and bolder approach is required and that the people of Scotland agree and rightly expect us to show leadership.
We are determined to rise to the challenge. But we recognise that achieving long-term culture change will take time and that Government cannot do it alone. Every one of us has a part to play; reflecting on our own drinking, how it affects our health and how it impacts on those around us, whether our children, family, friends, colleagues or communities. This is not always a comfortable exercise, but it is essential if we are to achieve our ambition of a self-confident Scotland where alcohol can be enjoyed sensibly as a pleasurable part of life.
This Framework for Action outlines the actions which we will be taking forward to rebalance Scotland's relationship with alcohol. Some are specific legislative measures designed to effect change in the short term. Many others focus on creating cultural change over a much longer period. The health service, local government, the alcohol industry, the police and the third sector have crucial parts to play in helping to develop and implement what will be a rolling programme of work over the coming months and years.
This Framework sets out the first steps on our journey. We will need to keep our work under review, making sure it is getting the right results. This Framework cannot offer all the answers, but if we work together with shared objectives the journey will make a real difference to the people of Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon MSP Deputy First Minister & Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing