Keeping the festive spirit under control
As revellers across Scotland gear up for their Hogmanay celebrations, Ministers have reminded people of the serious consequences alcohol misuse has for Scotland's health, criminal justice system and economy.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill took the opportunity to re-emphasise the Government's commitment to tackle the problem - through measures such as banning irresponsible promotions in off-sales, bringing in separate display areas for alcohol and exploring a "polluter pays" approach to dealing with the social costs of alcohol.
While Public Health Minister Shona Robison said 2008 would be the year the Government published a long term strategy designed to help change the culture and convince people to take more personal responsibility for their alcohol intake.
Mr MacAskill also highlighted an extra £1 million shared between community safety Partnerships around Scotland to fund projects to make our towns and cities safer over the festive period - including taxi marshals and first aid street facilities.
Mr MacAskill said:
"Scotland has a huge cultural problem with alcohol, and it's never more evident than around Christmas and New Year when getting drunk can feel - and look - like the national sport.
"It's impossible to walk down the street at night without seeing people who've simply had too much to drink. We're not prohibitionist, we're not saying don't have a drink - I enjoy the occasional pint of beer as much as the next man.
"But when nearly half of those accused of murder were drunk when they committed their offence, when one Scot dies every six hours from alcohol abuse, when alcohol is costing our economy tens of millions of pounds, it's time to say enough is enough.
"For the good of Scotland and everyone who lives in or visits the country we need to take action. We've already provided £1 million extra funding this Christmas to fund projects such as extra CCTV operations and first aid street facilities to make our towns and cities safer this Christmas.
"And in 2008 I'll be pressing ahead with implementation of the Licensing Act - including regulations to ensure alcohol is displayed in only one area of a store - to make sure we do what we can to tackle alcohol misuse.
"I'll also be bringing forward proposals to ban the types of '3 for 2' or '3 bottles for £10' promotions in off-sales that encourage people to buy and drink more alcohol.
"I'll also be taking my idea of using a "polluter pays" approach to tackling the costs of alcohol misuse forward - with more detail on using a levy on those who sell alcohol to pay for things like taxi-marshals, safe zones and additional police on the streets at night."
Public Health Minister Shona Robison added:
"This Government is taking immediate action - through the implementation of the new licensing legislation - to kick start a change in our cultural relationship with alcohol.
"But our work doesn't stop there. This is an ingrained culture that won't be solved overnight. If there was a quick fix solution we would have taken it but there isn't. That's why we are working on a long term strategy which aims to remind all Scots of the need to think about how much they drink and to do something about it.
"During Alcohol Awareness Week we encouraged people to know their units and think about what they were drinking and this will continue next year.
"I hope that we can all take a good look at out alcohol consumption and make 2008 the year we change Scotland's record on alcohol for the better."
The Licensing Act was passed in 2005 and will be fully implemented by September 2009. The Separate Display Areas regulations will come into force then.
The Scottish Government will be consulting on proposals to ban irresponsible promotions in off-sales and on the "polluter pays" additional levy in the first few months of 2008.
£1 million has been distributed between Scotland's 32 Community Safety partnerships as below, to fund local initiatives designed to make our streets safer.