I had a bit of a preconceived notion before arriving of Scotland having a bit of a drinking culture. Although, I am not sure that is quite the case at the moment.
I think that in the past, this may have been more true. Of course, it has always had a bit of a pub culture, where the pub serves as a social center. But nowadays, even the pub is declining. Especially in the last 5 years, after smoking was banned in pubs, the rate of pub closures has been immense. In addition, 20 or 30 years ago, less alcohol was sold in grocery stores, if any at all. In fact, I was told that if you wanted to buy a 6 pack of beer, you would even be able to pick it up from the pub on the way home. Grocery and liquor stores were not really the main venue for selling alcohol. Nowadays though, people are more apt to just go to the grocery store and buy a 4 pack for 1 pound a pint can, as opposed to 3 pounds per pint at the bar. So in addition to the smoking, the price and availability seem to have led to many pubs closing.
However it seems like they are really trying to curb consumption here. For example, alcohol is only sold between 10am and 10pm (7 days a week). I am pretty sure that in most parts of the US policies are a bit more liberal, save for the remaining blue laws states (although, I'm just guessing, really).
A recent issue that was in the big Scottish newspaper (aptly named 'Scotsman') for 3 days straight after I arrived, was a 45 pence tax on the sale of alcohol at grocery stores. Now, the tax is also pro-rated on the type of alcohol. For example, beers are taxed less, but hard ciders are taxed more (cider being popular here). The reason being, 16 and 17 year olds (the drinking age is 18), tend to go and buy cider at the grocery store, as it has a high gravity and is cheaper than beer. However, the public overwhelmingly thinks this tax is silly. And they seem to have every right to, as the tax revenues go straight to the grocery stores! How silly! A noble idea, but when the profits go straight to the grocery store, that makes no sense.
The other thing I suppose I was a bit suprised about is the hours the pubs are open. All pubs close at 11 or 12 during the week and 1 on the weekends. There are casino's which are open until 4am. Of course in the US it is usually 2 or even 4. I don't really think that stops people though from getting their fix. I haven't figured it out, but it appears they just shift their habits earlier (which really suprises me, contrary to most of continental Europe and even South America schedules).
On the other hand, a few nights ago, I met another student Brecht, and George, my landlord, at the local pub. We were only there about 2 hours tops, from 9-11. In that time span, George had 4 or 5 pints. That's quite a bit, especially in such a short time. Now, he is 62, and does this at least a few times a week. He did not really leave drunk, was a bit jolly, and I saw him nice and chipper the next morning at 8 am. It was an old man's pub, and there were plenty of others doing the same.
I suppose I've drawn no real conclusions here, only observations at this point, haha. More time needed.
One of the big beers in Scotland. Tastes a bit like Guiness but lighter (a bit more watery if you ask me).