Major drinks producers in Scotland are set to work with authorities to stem the tide of alcohol misuse in the country.

In what would be the first formal partnership of its kind between industry and government, Diageo, InBev - owner of Tennents in the country - the Scotch Whisky Association and Scottish & Newcastle will work with the Scottish Executive to tackle the health and social harm associated with excessive alcohol consumption.

The plan is to produce guidelines on the promotion of alcohol, a common set of responsible drinking messages, and developing and implementing alcohol policies in the workplace.

Speaking at the International Council on Alcohol and Addictions (ICAA) conference in Edinburgh earlier this week, Health Minister Andy Kerr warned that the country's reputation as a nation of heavy drinkers is "a reputation we are far too relaxed about".

"We need to challenge the ethos of drinking simply to get drunk," Kerr added. "Scotland as a whole is paying far too high a price.

"I'm very pleased that we have reached common ground with the big drinks producers on promoting responsible consumption. It's in everyone's interest to make this happen. Over the next few weeks, we will be sorting out the detail of the agreement and outlining some of the specific voluntary steps that can be taken to encourage a more responsible attitude towards alcohol."

Kerr also said that he hoped the move would be the basis for a long-term partnership, which would eventually include other producers, as well as alcohol retailers and the licensed trade.

"Cultural change takes time," Kerr concluded. "But we should be in no doubt that change must happen and each and every one of us has a responsibility to face up to this."

Gavin Hewitt, chief executive, Scotch Whisky Association said: "Securing an historic partnership as signalled by the Health Minister today will see Scotch Whisky distillers, the Scottish Executive and others, taking a lead in promoting responsible attitudes to alcohol in Scotland."

Kieran Simpson, head of public affairs at Scottish & Newcastle, added: "Scottish & Newcastle wholeheartedly supports responsible drinking in every respect. We welcome this initiative and look forward to working in partnership with the Scottish Executive and others to tackle the harm caused by the abuse of alcohol."