IF you laid all the bottles of whisky exported from Scotland each year end-to-end, they would stretch around 342,000km – which is 90 per cent of the distance to the moon.

Every second of every day in 2020, 36 standard bottles of whisky were shipped from Scotland to 166 countries around the world.

This means that more than 1.14 billion bottles are exported globally each year.

In 2019 alone, whisky accounted for 75 per cent of all Scottish food and drink exports, 21 per cent of all UK food and drink exports, and 1.4 per cent of all UK goods exports.

But despite the huge success of the drink worldwide, in its home country it is about to be banished under the counter alongside adult magazines and other products of sin.

The Scottish Government has recently launched a consultation on proposals that would see alcohol marketing banned on outdoor billboards and phased out of sports sponsorship in Scotland.

Retailers would also face restrictions on the promotion of alcohol in-store under plans aimed at reducing “the appeal of alcohol to young people” and cutting overall consumption.

The report states that people in recovery from alcohol dependency have told researchers that they found in-store promotions “triggering” and had to send neighbours to get their shopping to avoid temptation.

Although discount deals such as multi-buy offers are already prohibited for alcohol, shops and supermarkets are currently able to promote sales through end-of-aisle displays, at checkouts, near exits and entrances, and through signage or window displays.

Evidence has found that end-of-aisle promotions for beer, wine and spirits boosted sales by between 23 and 46 per cent by encouraging “impulse or unplanned” purchases.

The Scottish Government said it is “considering whether the restrictions around the alcohol display area need to be tightened”.

This could include forcing smaller retailers who display alcohol on shelves behind the counter to place the bottles “in a closed cupboard, like tobacco products”, or in larger outlets - such as supermarkets - requiring that alcohol be kept near “near the back of the shop away from entrances, exits or checkouts”.

The report adds that “this could significantly limit how alcohol could be sold” and that “further work will need to be undertaken on the impact to small retailers before any potential restrictions were introduced”.

The proposals also outline suggestions such as banning mixed aisles of alcohol and non-alcohol products to “limit the visibility of alcohol to only those who make a specific decision to buy alcohol” and prohibiting window displays for alcohol to “reduce the visibility of alcohol from outside the shop itself”.

All this is well and good and recovering addicts should receive all the help that they can get in their efforts to stay sober.

But a blanket ban affecting responsible drinkers too is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

It is easy to understand how recovering addicts must feel when they see an aisle full of alcohol, but it is up to them to avoid it, even if that means they can never visit a supermarket alone again.

But of course, the threat of a relapse is never far away and many sadly find a way to fall off the wagon.

It is tragic and wrecks lives, both of the addict and those close to them, but hiding away alcohol from everyone is not the answer.

Despite various ‘experts’ and ministers perpetually claiming that Scotland has a terrible relationship with drink, the stats don’t really back it up.

Yes, there are far too many violent incidents in our towns and cities at the weekend and it is up to our hard-pressed medics and emergency services to clean them up.

This is a stain on our nation’s reputation as well as our public services certainly, but it will not be cured by hiding alcohol under the counter in shops.

Teenagers have found ways to get drink for decades and this won’t change by banning advertising. All that will do is put the finances of some of our major sporting clubs in jeopardy as they rely on alcohol firms sponsorship for a big slice of their revenue.

Quite why ministers insist on cracking down on alcohol when whisky is far and away the country’s biggest food and drink export is hard to fathom.

The problem is not the drink but the drinkers and that will not change regardless of whether you ban it altogether, which is not beyond the realms of possibility.

Banning smoking in public places was great, but banning drinking in pubs is a different ball game altogether.