SUPERMARKETS and pubs would be forced to restrict how much alcohol they sell under proposals to introduce a national target for reducing Scotland's harmful levels of drinking.

Ahead of the preparation of a new blueprint on tackling the country's relationship with drink, ministers have signalled a readiness to consider a Scotland-wide target as part of a global campaign to reduce alcohol.

Both the country's main alcohol charity and leading medical experts have been promoting and supporting the idea in recent weeks, believing it can become the key focus for the new national liquor strategy.

Read more: Supermarkets blamed for rise in Scots alcohol consumption

The plan would require businesses, from global supermarket chains to corner shops and restaurants, to declare the volume of alcohol they sold, with such data crucial in quantifying how much was being bought, where and from whom. At a conference of influential liquor law practioners in recent days Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said providing data on much drink can be sold could form part of the conditions of a licence when they are granted by local authorities. Such information could then be used by licensing boards to strengthen powers they have in, for example, limiting alcohol sales floor space, conditions of and hours and days of sale, and the number of outlets permitted to sell alcohol. It would also reinforce calls for limits to be set on how much alcohol a premises is permitted to sell.

But one leading expert has described the idea as “junk science”, adding that using alcohol sales figures and projections was not a gauge for how people consumed it.

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Figures unveiled last month showed around 10.8 litres of pure alcohol was sold per adult last year – the equivalent of 41 bottles of vodka, reversing the downward trend over most of the last decade and with cheaper supermarket sales being blamed.

It also comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) set a target of reducing global alcohol consumption by 10 per cent by 2025.

Asked the Government's view on a national target and the new alcohol strategy, health minister Shona Robison said: “We remain determined that Scotland plays its part in helping the WHO achieve a global reduction of 10% in alcohol harm. The refresh of the Strategy is likely to consider how Scotland plays it’s part in targeting and reducing harmful levels of consumption in Scotland.”

Read more: Week's worth of alcohol available for just £2.50 in Scots supermarkets, campaigners find

Ms Douglas, who was also the Scottish Government’s head of alcohol policy for five years, told the Scottish Licensing Law and Practice conference, current requirements for areas to have ‘over-provision policies’, effectively caps on the number of licensed premises in certain neighbourhoods, were ineffective as the number of venues selling liquor had risen in each of the four years.

She was also critical of claims of commercial sensitivity for not divulging sales data, claiming the current system could be amended so the information was kept under wraps.

She later told The Herald: “In the next phase of its alcohol strategy, the Scottish Government must focus on the actions that have the best chance of reducing consumption and harm.

HeraldScotland:

“Setting a target to reduce alcohol consumption could provide a useful focus for concerted action in Scotland.”

Dr Peter Rice, chairman of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems and one of the country’s leading medical voices on the harm caused by drink, has been lobbying MSPs to improve the contribution of licensing boards towards tackling alcohol harm..

He said: "We'd like to see legally binding mechanisms where licensing boards had access to the relevant information about patterns and volumes of sales but have an open mind in what that would require.

Read more: Herald View - A concerted effort on the problem of alcohol

"The proxy measures we have about sales such as shelf space are inadequate and we need to move beyond a headcount of premises. Without sales data licensing boards is hampered in what it can meaningfully do to protect public health."

But leading liquor lawyer Jack Cummins, a former advisor to the Government on alcohol, said the idea of projecte sales information to help decide on licence applications was "fundamentally flawed".

He said: “I’ve no doubt that those who contend for more curbs of the granting of licences would welcome an opportunity for data-mining, but I simply can’t see the legislation being amended, yet again, to introduce what amounts to little more than a ‘junk science’ approach.

“They’ll reveal nothing about the whereabouts of the purchasers nor could they even be a step towards assessing alcohol consumption patterns."