Scotland

Alcohol consumption in Scotland falling

  • 8 December 2014
  • From the section Scotland
Empty bottles
Image caption Alcohol sales in Scotland still remain higher than in England and Wales

Alcohol consumption in Scotland has fallen by the equivalent of 38 million pints of beer a year since 2009.

An NHS Health Scotland report said much of this could be attributed to the economy crashing and the scrapping of multi-buy deals.

There were also a third fewer alcohol-related deaths last year than a decade ago, and a 25% drop in alcohol related hospital admissions since 2007/08.

However, alcohol sales remain 17% higher than in England and Wales.

This was said to mainly be due to higher sales through supermarkets and off-licences in Scotland, particularly of lower-priced spirits.

Since their peak in 2009, alcohol sales have declined by 9% - equivalent to about nine million fewer bottles of wine, three million fewer bottles of spirits or 38 million fewer pints of beer per year.

Multi-buy promotions

Although alcohol-related deaths have fallen by 35% since 2003, the report said they remained 1.4 times higher than 1981 and hospital admissions were 1.4 times higher than 1991/92.

The report also showed that the proportion of alcohol sold at below 50p per unit (ppu) in Scotland's off-sales - the initial price proposed for minimum pricing - was declining.

Clare Beeston, principal public health adviser at NHS Health Scotland, said: "Alcohol sales are falling in both Scotland and England and Wales, and it is likely that declining affordability of alcohol, due to the economic downturn across the whole of Great Britain in recent years, is responsible for some of these improvements.

"However, the ban on multi-buy promotions for alcohol and the increased number of people accessing specialist services are also likely to be contributing to the improvements seen in Scotland."

Minimum pricing

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "The Scottish government is committed to tackling Scotland's difficult relationship with alcohol, so it is encouraging to see a downward trend in alcohol-related harm, and for this trend to be particularly evident in our most deprived communities.

"However, the fact remains that on average almost 700 people per week are admitted to hospital in Scotland due to alcohol, which is why we are absolutely committed to introducing minimum unit pricing.

"This is about targeting the cheap high-strength alcohol that causes so much harm within our communities, often in the most deprived areas of Scotland."

She added: "Given the link between consumption and harm, and evidence that affordability is one of the drivers of increased consumption, addressing price is an important element of any long-term strategy to tackle alcohol misuse."

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