ANY hope that Scotland has at last recognised the true scale of its dangerous relationship with alcohol must be dismissed in the wake of separate reports yesterday from the chief medical officer and the co-director of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (SRVU).

More than three-quarters of the 97 murders committed last year were carried out by people under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Detective Chief Superintendent John Carnochan, co-director of the SVRU, says the connection with alcohol is profound. Thirty-seven years' experience as a police officer have convinced him of the causal relationship between alcohol and homicide. Policy-makers cannot afford to ignore the evidence of the statistics: the number of murders and culpable homicides in Scotland increased by a fifth and the proportion of perpetrators under the influence of alcohol or drugs increased from just under half to just over three-quarters.

Sir Harry Burns, the chief medical officer, identified excessive alcohol consumption as a serious problem which, along with poor diet and obesity, causes unacceptable levels of ill-health.

Scotland has the eighth-highest alcohol consumption rate in the world and greater health problems than most of our European neighbours. It is particularly alarming that the proportion of men who exceeded the recommended daily alcohol limits rose from 43% to 45% between 2003 and 2010.

This contrasts with a decline in smoking-related illnesses, which Dr Burns attributed to a combination of legislation and action to highlight the dangers of smoking and support smokers in their attempts to quit.

The Scottish Government's reintroduction of minimum pricing legislation will have the practical effect of raising the price of the cheapest alcohol beyond pocket-money levels but, without changing the culture from excessive to responsible drinking, there is every likelihood that the murder rate will continue to rise.

Scotland is reaping the benefits of a new attitude to smoking; we must do the same with alcohol.