Highlands & Islands

Excessive drinking 'a curse' Highland councillor says

Drinks bottle on a pavement
Image caption Alcohol abuse was raised at the meeting of Highland Council

Irresponsible drinking was described as "the curse of the Highlands", by a councillor during a presentation on the state of the region's health.

Kenneth MacLeod made the comment after Highland councillors heard Dr Margaret Somerville, of NHS Highland, detail the findings of a recent report.

The report sets out factors causing inequality and poverty in the Highlands and Argyll.

Dr Somerville also told councillors that alcohol abuse was a key concern.

The director of public health at NHS Highland said she supported minimum pricing of alcohol as a way of tackling excessive drinking.

Dr Somerville has previously said the rate of alcohol-related deaths in the health board area were worse than she had expected, after she moved to the Highlands from England.

Following her presentation to a full meeting of Highland Council, Inverness councillor Mr MacLeod said alcohol was "the curse of the Highlands".

Council leader Michael Foxley said he also backed minimum pricing.

The report Dr Somerville presented at the meeting in Inverness was published in October.

Welfare reform and rising fuel prices were among factors expected to increase the number of people in poverty, NHS Highland said in the document.

About 53,000 people were reported to be in poverty in the health board area - 35,000 of them in Highland Council's region.

Merkinch in Inverness and Dunoon were among the most deprived areas, according to the NHS Highland report.

Alness, the south side of Wick and Campbeltown were also listed among the most deprived places in the health board's area.

The least deprived locations included Lomond Shore, rural parts around Nairn and the Inverness areas of Culloden, Balloch, Scorguie, Lochardil and Holm Mains.

NHS Highland's report said the average life expectancy of a man living in Merkinch was 66 years - about 14 years less than a man living in Lochardil.

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