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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 September 2006, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
'Don't drink to get drunk' plea
Woman on street
The partnership will look at combating irresponsible drinking
Scotland needs to challenge the ethos of drinking to get drunk, Health Minister Andy Kerr has warned.

His comments came as several major drinks producers joined the Scottish Executive to address the problem of alcohol misuse.

The Scotch Whisky Association, Diageo, Tennents' owners InBev and Scottish and Newcastle will work on producing responsible drinking guidelines.

There has been a 20% rise in Scotland's alcohol-related deaths since 1999.

Mr Kerr said he hoped the partnership could be extended to include other producers, retailers and the licensed trade.

We need to challenge the ethos of drinking simply to get drunk
Andy Kerr
Health Minister

The health minister told an International Council on Alcohol and Addictions conference in Edinburgh: "Scotland has a reputation of being a nation of heavy drinkers.

"It is a reputation we are far too relaxed about.

"If Scotland is to fully realise its potential to be the best small country in the world, then we need to challenge the ethos of drinking simply to get drunk."

Long-term commitment

The working group will focus on the social harm associated with excessive drinking, guidelines on the promotion of alcohol, a common set of responsible drinking messages and developing alcohol policies in the workplace.

Gavin Hewitt, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: "Attitudes to irresponsible drinking must change and will require a long-term commitment.

"Securing a historic partnership as signalled by the health minister today will see Scotch whisky distillers, the Scottish Executive and others taking a lead in promoting responsible attitudes to alcohol in Scotland."

Scottish Conservative health spokeswoman Dr Nanette Milne said the move was "very welcome".

She said: "I am pleased that some of the big-hitters in the drinks industry are displaying a sense of corporate social responsibility by seeking to ensure that their products are consumed responsibly and in moderation."

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