Professor David Nutt, a psychopharmacologist recently sacked as the UK government's most senior drugs adviser for claiming that ecstasy was less harmful than alcohol, is developing a synthetic substitute at Imperial College in London. He says it could be on the market within three years, given the political will to introduce it.
Nutt says the advantages would be that individuals could enjoy an alcohol that does not damage internal organs, then take an antidote before leaving the pub and drive home safely.
In an interview with Scotland on Sunday, Nutt said the country is a perfect test bed as it has the highest rate of cirrhosis in the world and is top of the world league in the damage caused by alcohol.
"We have the knowledge to make a far superior synthetic alcohol. Someone needs to step up to the plate. Scotland is the country to do it," he said. "The Scottish Government is now beginning to talk sensibly about intervening with alcohol and minimum pricing and I think the Scots Government should say, 'We want an alcohol substitute'."
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said yesterday: "While we would need more detailed information on what is being proposed, what we are concerned about is rebalancing Scotland's relationship with alcohol to reduce the 2.25 billion cost to our public services and economy.
"One of our key proposals, minimum pricing, would set a floor price for a unit of alcohol below which it could not be sold. This policy would target the cheap, high-strength white ciders and low-grade spirits favoured by problem drinkers."
Leading Scottish public health experts will today support minimum pricing for alcohol. At the Faculty of Public Health's Scottish conference in Peebles, delegates will call on ministers to introduce the new measures to curb binge drinking and antisocial behaviour.
Scotland has one of the fastest-growing rates of chronic liver disease in the world. Sixty-five thousand children under 16 are estimated to be living with parents with alcohol problems.