Shops could be told to stop selling alcohol during the day under new NHS proposals to curb the harm caused by drinking.
Public health experts from NHS Shetland suggested that sales of drink should be banned until late afternoon or evening as part of a new report on substance abuse.
The report’s authors warn that alcohol has become “embedded” in society, citing figures that around three quarters of all alcohol drunk in Scotland was now bought from supermarkets or off licences.
There are currrently around 670 hospital admissions a week in Scotland due to alcohol, while 22 people die every seven days from related conditions.
The report said: “Restricting licensing hours would be a big help, if off-sales were not permitted until late afternoon or evening rather than from 10am.”
Elizabeth Robinson, a public health expert at NHS Shetland, said she would suggest 5pm but the exact hours were up for discussion.
She said: “If you see dependence on alcohol as an illness, which a lot of people would, you would want to do everything you could to support them and help them get better, in the same way as you would with cancer.”
Using research from Aberdeen into recovery from alcohol dependency, other suggestions included a separate aisle for alcohol away from the main shop floor and preventing small shops from displaying alcohol behind the counter.
Eric Carlin, director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), said the proposals seemed sensible but must be developed with local people if they are going to work.
He said: “We are not campaigning for alcohol to be banned but we do recognise that it impacts on public health. It is a complicated issue but we want people thinking differently about it, seeing it as a different kind of product than the tin of beans on your weekly shop.”
The report will be considered by Shetland’s Licensing Board and measures could be rolled out more widely if successful.
It comes after the Scottish Government won its legal battle over the introduction of minimum unit pricing, which would set a floor price for cheap lagers and spirits.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We have no plans to nationally amend licensing hours for alcohol sales, and it is for individual licensing boards to determine any new application.
“However, we are clear we need to do more to tackle Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol.”