A PUB that doesn’t sell beer! Great story, we all scoffed at our daily news conference, shaking our heads in wonder at such a concept. It didn’t take much persuasion for us to elevate Stromness Hotel’s alcohol-free move to lead story status in the paper.

But why should a business putting the health and wellbeing of its customers first be deemed newsworthy? Well, obviously, they run a pub – a place one associates with selling alcohol. So, to deny thirsty patrons their well-earned libation is weird, right?

Scotland has a complicated relationship with booze – on the up side, a whisky industry helping to drive the economy; on the down side, one of the worst alcohol-related death rates in Europe, especially in our poorest areas.

But one thing is clear. Drinking is seen as normal behaviour. A social lubricant, a relaxation aid and help at times of consolation.

In my younger years, I convinced myself drinking was all great fun. But looking back I’m not sure I truly believed it. And I doubt I’m alone. The dreaded hangover, the mulling over the amount of money spent and then, worst of all, the regrets over words spoken during moments of drink-fuelled over-confidence. I don’t miss it.

For generations booze has been associated with good times. Whisky Galore!, Men Behaving Badly and Al “The Pub Landlord” Murray are hilarious skits placing alcohol as a light-hearted, comedy prop, a tradition stretching as far back as vintage Punch cartoons.

Contrast this with attitudes to drugs. A record 1,339 drug deaths last year was labelled a “human tragedy” by the First Minister and extra millions poured in to tackle the problem, while 1,190 alcohol-related fatalities over the same period failed to illicit nearly the same political fallout. Both death tolls the result of addictions, but both regarded differently.

Why is this? Perhaps, it’s because to shine a light on alcohol consumption is to question our capacity to make our own choices as free-thinking intelligent individuals. Most Scots are responsible drinkers, after all.

Of course, enjoying a glass of wine after work doesn’t make you responsible for 20 deaths a week. But is there a danger that by “othering” the problem we have become inured to the heavy human cost of drinking? Has it become normalised as just an inevitable consequence of our determination to enjoy a drink?

Minimum pricing, advertising and availability all play a huge role, but the biggest influencer on health outcomes are our attitudes to drink and social expectations to join in.

I appreciate I’m going against the grain here and I imagine most of you reading this will disagree.

But what I admire about the owners of Stromness Hotel is that they’ve been brave enough to stand up, take a business risk and recognise alcohol doesn’t have to play an integral part of social interaction. Perhaps the day will come when a “dry” pub is so commonplace that it’s not worthy of a story in a newspaper. It may be a drop in the ocean at the moment, but I’ll raise a non-alcoholic beer to their worthy efforts. Slainte!