Formulation of alcohol policy involves a range of government departments and local authorities.

Political devolution in Scotland means that the Scottish Government and Parliament have the authority to formulate, legislate and lead public policy on alcohol in areas such as health and treatment, licensing, criminal justice and law and order.

In the UK, alcoholic beverages are manufactured and retailed under licence. Anyone producing or retailing alcoholic drinks requires a licence to do so. New licensing legislation in Scotland which came into force in 2009 requires licensing boards to consider for the first time the impact on public health when deciding whether or not to grant a liquor licence. The public health principle enshrined in the new Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, along with the other licensing objectives – preventing crime and disorder, securing public safety, preventing public nuisance and protecting children from harm – explicitly recognises that alcohol is no ordinary commodity and that public scrutiny and regulation of the alcohol market is essential to protect individuals and communities from alcohol-related harm.

Scottish Alcohol Strategy

Over the past 15 years Scotland has become a global leader in effective alcohol policy, and alcohol-related deaths fell by a third between 2003 and 2012, although this has now stalled. The Scottish Government issued its strategy document in March 2009 called 'Changing Scotland's relationship with alcohol: a framework for action' which included:

  • A ban on multibuy price promotions of alcohol in off-licensed premises (October 2011)
  • The introduction of minimum unit pricing for all alcohol sold in Scotland (passed by the Scottish Parliament in 2012; enacted May 2018)
  • Support for the delivery and evaluation of brief interventions to reduce harmful alcohol use (2015)
  • Reducing the drink-driving limit in Scotland to 22mg/100ml (Dec 2014).

SG alcohol framework 2018 coverSG RRR treatment strategy 2018 cover

The most recent strategy for tackling problem alcohol use in Scotland was published by the Scottish Government in late 2018: Alcohol Framework 2018: Preventing harm

Key elements of the strategy include:

  • Preventing harm to children & young people through alcohol marketing on TV and in cinemas by restricting exposure to 9pm watershed
  • Consulting with the public on mandatory restriction of advertising in Scotland; urging the UK government to pass appropriate legislation, devolving such powers to Scotland if necessary
  • Evaluating the impacts of minimum unit pricing legislation after five years and reviewing its effects in October 2020
  • Updating statutory guidance on the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 with a public consultation in 2019
  • Keeping the licensing system under review to ensure it delivers for public health aims and to protect vulnerable communities
  • No involvement of the alcohol industry in policy development or public health messages/educational campaigns
  • Improving susbstance use education and using evidence-based campaigns to reach children and young people
  • Initiating marketing campaigns promoting the Chief Medical Officers' lower risk drinking guidelines and raising awareness of links between alcohol and cancer
  • Pressing alcohol producers to introduce labelling with health information, and if necessary mandating this
  • Increasing awareness, diagnosis and treatment of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
  • Building resilience and awareness in communities to reduce violence and improve safety.

The Scottish Government also published its treatment strategy in 2018 called 'Rights, Respect and Recovery' to improve health by reducing and preventing alcohol and drug use, harm and related deaths.