Calls for action as Scotland records highest rate of alcohol deaths in UK

Scottish Government wants to introduce minimum pricing to change Scotland's drinking culture. Picture: PA
Scottish Government wants to introduce minimum pricing to change Scotland's drinking culture. Picture: PA
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Scotland had the worst rate for alcohol-related deaths in any part of the UK, according to figures recorded over the past 20 years.

Alcohol death rates for men in Scotland have risen dramatically, according to the figures published by the Office for National Statistics. In Scotland they stood at 31.2 per 100,000 of the population, compared to 18.1 per 100,000 in England, 20.3 in Northern Ireland and 19.9 for Wales.

The latest findings from 2014 led to renewed calls for the introduction of the Scottish Government’s plan for a minimum alcohol price, aimed at tackling alcohol abuse.

Meanwhile, the data showed that the rate was also higher among women in Scotland than in the rest of the UK, with 13.3 drink-related deaths per 100,000 females north of the Border.

The level of female deaths was 9.1 per 100,000 for England, 8.5 for Northern Ireland and 10.4 for Wales.

Scotland also had the highest alcohol-related death rates during the period 1994 to 2014, as well as the steepest increase in rates between 1994 and the 2000s.

The figure rose sharply from 23.3 per 100,000 to 31.2 per 100,000 among men during that time. For women alcohol related deaths went from 11 per 100,000 to 13.3 per 100,000 during the same period.

In 1994 there were 482 alcohol-related deaths of men in Scotland, although this increased to 784 in 2014. For women the number of lives lost during the same period went from 259 to 368.

There were 8,697 alcohol-related deaths registered in the UK in 2014, a figure that equates to 14.3 deaths for every 100,000 people in the UK.

Plans for a minimum unit price of 50p for alcohol have been passed by the Scottish Parliament, but have not been introduced due to a legal challenge led by the Scotch Whisky Association.

Scotland’s public health minister, Maureen Watt, said: “There is no doubt that a key factor in alcohol related harm is affordability.

“This is why minimum unit pricing is such an important part of our package of measures to tackle the availability of cheap, high strength alcohol that causes so much damage in our communities.”

Dr Peter Bennie, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland, said: “It is disappointing to see the rise in the number of alcohol-related deaths, but it does underline the importance of tackling the culture of heavy drinking in Scotland.”