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Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action

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THE DISCUSSION PAPER AND RESPONSES

24. In June 2008 we issued a discussion paper - Changing Scotland's Relationship with Alcohol: A Discussion Paper on Our Strategic Approach. This set out a range of proposals and ideas to address the growing trend of alcohol misuse. We wanted a full and frank discussion. We wanted to bring radical ideas to the table, knowing that not all of them would be popular. Most of all, we wanted people to look at themselves and their own relationship with alcohol. For many of us, that is not a comfortable thing to do.

25. We received 259 responses from individuals and 207 responses from organisations. In addition, two MSPs submitted the results of consultations they had carried out with local constituents; the Scottish Prison Service provided the views of prisoners and prison service staff; East Renfrewshire Council and Dundee Drug and Alcohol Action Team submitted the views of young people in their area; Young Scot provided the results of a survey and focus groups they carried out on behalf of the Scottish Government; and Scottish Government Ministers also received 53 letters or e-mails on the subject. Those responses from individuals or organisations that gave consent for publication can be found at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2008/10/06155903/0

26. This was not merely a paper exercise. We met with a number of organisations, including many from the alcohol and retail industries, to talk about the discussion paper and listen to stakeholders' issues and concerns, and we held a Youth Summit to gather views on alcohol and its impact on young people. We also commissioned an analysis of the written responses from Hexagon Research and Consulting. Their analysis is available at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2009/02/24154414/0. Overall, there was a common feeling that alcohol misuse was a problem that needed to be addressed. The majority of our specific proposals were generally welcomed. One or two ideas were not received as well. Following the comments received, we have decided to suspend plans for introducing alcohol only checkouts and raising the age for sellers operating those checkouts. We have also developed an alternative way forward for the minimum age for off-sales that will allow local solutions to local problems.

27. As one would expect, attitudes varied according to who was responding. For example, the alcohol trade - understandably - was less positive to suggestions of new, more restrictive regulation. And - again understandably - the health sector was more positive to proposals designed to reduce consumption. But overall there was an acceptance that there is a problem; that it is not just confined to young people and those with chronic alcohol problems; and that something needs to be done. We believe this is an endorsement of our whole population approach. Alcohol misuse isn't a problem that just relates to other people; it's a problem that relates to all of us, and we all have a role to play in finding the solutions.