HUNDREDS of children under 10 have been treated for alcohol-related injuries or illness in Scotland in the last three years, new figures show.

As many as 225 youngsters aged nine or under have been admitted to hospital for alcohol abuse.

NHS Ayrshire and Arran was the worst affected health board area, with 86 under-10s treated between 2011 and 2013, followed by Tayside with 61 cases and Forth Valley with 33.

The numbers soared in the age group 10 to 18, with a total of 4,884 young people treated for an alcohol-related condition over the same period. Again Ayrshire and Arran had the highest incidence, with 1,483 cases recorded, followed by Tayside with 1,385 and Forth Valley with 612.

The figures were obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats through freedom of information legislation.

Jim Hume MSP, the party's health spokesman, said young people were "paying the price" for a failure to tackle problem drinking.

He said: "People will be shocked to learn that more than 200 children under 10 years of age were treated for alcohol-related injury or illness. These children should be out kicking a ball about, not hitting the bottle.

"It should set alarm bells ringing across society that so many young people who should not be drinking are being treated by our NHS staff for alcohol-related conditions.

"Problem drinking can rip apart families and places enormous financial strain on our public services, from our hospitals to our criminal justice system."

Mr Hume called for the Scottish Government to work with young people to address the "troubling" figures.

He added: "If we are to change our national drinking culture young people must be given the education they need to make informed decisions about the impact alcohol misuse can have on their lives."

Earlier this year, separate figures for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde revealed that alcohol was responsible for more than 750 children being admitted to the region's hospitals between 2008 and 2013.

Of those, 152 were aged between 10 and 14, with a further 18 admissions for children aged nine or younger over the five-year period.

However, accident and emergency admissions for underage drinkers had actually fallen by around 40 per cent during that time, from 200 under-18s in 2008 to 118 by 2013.

At the time, Evelyn Gillan, chair of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said the key to tackling alcohol abuse by children and teenagers was reducing its affordability. She said: "Tackling underage drinking can be done most effectively by making alcohol less affordable, less available and less attractive to young people."

Ministers have pushed for minimum pricing, but have faced strong resistance from the Scotch Whisky Association.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "It is regrettable that legal action has delayed the implementation alcohol minimum unit pricing, but we are absolutely committed to its introduction.

"I believe that this policy, as part of a package of measures, will be an effective way to tackle the problems caused by Scotland's difficult relationship with alcohol.

"We are currently taking forward substance misuse education work in schools, where children and young people will learn about a variety of substances including alcohol, medicines, drugs, tobacco and solvents.

"They will explore the impact risk-taking behaviour has on life choices and health.

"By educating children and young people about alcohol and the impact misuse can have, we aim to prevent them making unhealthy choices."