Scottish Government announces bold plan to tackle alcohol abuse

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 3rd March 2009

The Scottish Government this week published its framework for tackling Scotland’s alcohol misuse problem, with a minimum price to be applied on alcoholic products.
The strategy was launched by Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill with minimum pricing and local flexibility to ban off-sales to under-21s among its key elements.

‘Changing Scotland’s Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action’ aims to:

* Introduce a minimum price for a unit of alcohol
* Establish a legal obligation on licensing boards to consider whether alcohol-related problems in their area warrant an off-sales purchase age of 21, with local police Chief Constables able to request this at any time
* Ban off-sales promotions such as ‘three for two’ and cut-price offers, and ban selling alcohol as a ‘loss leader’
* Restrict the display and marketing of alcohol products to specified areas in off-sales premises
* Put in place the legal power to introduce a Social Responsibility Fee for some retailers, with details to be developed with stakeholders over the course of this year

“Our coherent strategy for stemming the tide of alcohol misuse is bolder than anything seen before in Scotland,” Ms Sturgeon claimed. “The scale of Scotland’s alcohol misuse problem is shocking: 42,500 alcohol-related hospital discharges; 1,500 deaths per year; soaring rates of liver cirrhosis; the eighth highest consumption in the world and a £2.25 billion annual cost in extra services and lost productivity.”

“Plummeting prices and aggressive promotion have led to a surge in consumption, causing and adding to health problems ranging from liver and heart diseases to diabetes, obesity, dementia and cancers,” she added. “We have listened to those who responded to the consultation and modified our proposals where appropriate. But we remain determined to press ahead with tough policies to tackle alcohol misuse.”

“The time has come for serious action. It is no longer an option for anyone to simply talk about the problem of alcohol misuse but shy away from the action needed to tackle it, so I hope all Parliamentarians and others who care about Scotland’s health will support the measures outlined today.”

The new framework for tackling alcohol misuse was welcomed by a number of health organisations and campaign groups, although there have been claims that the moves may only punish those who drink in moderation, with others who drink to excess continuing to do despite the price changes.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Scottish consumers are some of the biggest drinkers in the world, with 11.8 litres of alcohol consumed each year per person. In comparison, Australians consume about 9 litres per year on average.