Scots drink four more bottles of spirits a year than in 1990s Source – The Scotsman Scots are drinking an extra 1.2 litres of pure alcohol annually compared with 1994, a report reveals. The 11 per cent increase to 11.9 litres for everyone 16 and over is the equivalent of an extra four bottles of spirits a year.

The study, published by NHS Health Scotland, said the increase was driven by a 53 per cent jump in the amount of alcohol being bought in shops. It also highlighted significantly heavier drinking in Scotland compared to south of the Border, with 21 per cent higher sales and twice the death rate. Spirits such as vodka and whisky account for 29 per cent of the alcohol bought in Scotland in 2009 compared to 19 per cent in the south.

Most of the difference in alcohol sales between Scotland and the south is in shop sales, with vodka accounting for the largest share – 38 per cent – of that difference. Whisky accounted for only 17 per cent of the difference – suggesting tourist purchases account for only a small part of the greater sales in Scotland. The study, published as part of an evaluation of Scotland’s alcohol strategy, contained grim reading along with some positive signs.

Dr Laurence Gruer, director of public health science at NHS Health Scotland, said: “This report confirms that alcohol-related harm in Scotland has increased enormously since the early 1980s. Alcohol-related deaths are three times higher and hospital admissions are four times higher than in the early 1980s. In the most recent years, alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions have declined. This is encouraging but it is important to look at long-term trends and it’s certainly too early to tell if the recent improvements will continue. Alcohol-related deaths are still at historically high levels and twice as high as in England and Wales.”

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The Scottish Government-commissioned report also showed how alcohol was hitting the poorest hardest. In 2009, alcohol-related deaths were more than six times higher in the most deprived fifth of the population than in the most affluent.

Alcohol groups said the report showed the need for minimum pricing, which the SNP has pledged to again try to introduce if re-elected in May. Tom Roberts, project director for Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, said: “With much of this alcohol available at well under 30p per unit, we must take action on price.

Minimum unit pricing is the most effective mechanism we know of to raise the price of cheap alcohol. Next week’s Budget is also an opportunity to begin to reverse the increased affordability which drives consumption.” Jennifer Curran, Alcohol Focus Scotland head of policy, said: “We must face up to the fact alcohol is now more affordable, more available and is more heavily marketed than at any time over the last 30 years. Research evidence shows establishing a minimum unit price for alcohol is one of the most effective ways to increase price and reduce consumption.”

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Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “These figures provide yet more evidence alcohol abuse is a major problem in Scotland, although there are welcome signs that consumption is now falling.” The Lib Dems’ Robert Brown said: “The key change that is needed in Scotland is a change in the drinking culture.

About the author

Laura Morris

Laura Morris is an experienced clinical practitioner and CQC Registered Manager with over twenty years experience, over ten of which have been as an Independent Nurse Prescriber.

She has held a number of senior leadership roles in the substance use and mental health sector in the NHS, the prison service and in leading social enterprises in the field.