THERE is no part of Scottish society that is immune to the damage unchecked alcohol abuse can visit on individuals or families.

Sometimes the effects of someone drinking too heavily or becoming dependent on alcohol are concealed, even from loved ones. But all too often it comes at a price that is more than just financial. It’s a price paid in lives.

Whether it’s damage to personal health or relationships, or whether it causes harm to others, the consequences of excessive drinking have ripped families apart, destroyed careers and ruined lives.

There is no magic bullet, no single action that will stop alcohol abuse. That’s why we’ve taken a range of action to reduce the availability, attractiveness and affordability of alcohol.

As a result, in Scotland we have one of the most comprehensive alcohol policies in the world. Our European neighbours, in particular, have been incredibly supportive of the steps we’re taking. At this time of great national uncertainty due to Brexit, I am determined that Scotland will continue its leading and collaborative role in reducing alcohol harms across Europe.

One of the most innovative steps we’ve taken has been the introduction of minimum unit pricing for alcohol. When we set the price at 50p we struck a balance between public health and social benefits, and intervention in the market. I believe it’s proportionate. This initiative is still in its infancy having been in place for just a year and as time goes on we’ll continue to keep the level it is set at under review to determine if an increase is necessary in the short-term.

We’ve seen a sustained campaign against minimum pricing from the manufacturer of previously very cheap, high-strength cider since its introduction. A reasonable person might assume that this is linked to anecdotal evidence that sales of their product have fallen under minimum pricing. It should be noted that there are alcohol producers who continue to seek to promote their products responsibly, including Tennent’s, who backed minimum pricing.

In June, we will see the first meaningful analysis of sales which will tell us the short-term effect on the volume of units sold. After 5 years there will be an overarching expert evaluation of the impacts of minimum pricing, and whether it has slowed the growth in alcohol consumption, or even helped reduce consumption in the long-term.

The expert evaluation will also take into account a wide range of views from the police and the NHS, as well as academia, local government, the third sector and the alcohol industry. It is an inclusive programme of work and all of these voices will be heard.

While the full impact of minimum unit pricing will not be known for a few years, you only need to look at the alcohol death figures to see that doing nothing is simply not an option.

In the year before we introduced minimum unit pricing, 22 deaths every week were attributed to alcohol alone. Each and every one of those was preventable and as a government we are committed to trying to put an end to this needless loss of life.

Scotland genuinely made history a year ago, when we introduced minimum unit pricing for alcohol. Our Parliament took brave and innovative action to introduce the policy, just as we did with the smoking ban. A year on, minimum pricing is setting a new benchmark in creating the healthier and fairer Scotland we all want to see.

Joe FitzPatrick is Public Health Minister