Scotland is leading the UK in its approach to tackling the country’s chronic alcohol problems, a report by health experts has found.
MSPs should now be handed more powers over areas like marketing and advertising to ensure the country continues its pioneering approach. The Four Nations: How Evidence-based are Alcohol Policies and Programmes Across the UK? investigates the extent to which alcohol policies and programmes across the UK are based on evidence.
The election of the Scottish National Party to power heralded the start of the shift to a whole population approach to alcoholReport
It says the arrival of an SNP Government in 2007 brought about a cultural change in the national attitude to alcohol abuse.
“The election of the Scottish National Party to power heralded the start of the shift to a whole population approach to alcohol which was subsequently adopted at least in part by Wales and Northern Ireland,” the report says.
“Scotland has greater autonomy and powers than the other areas, and has led the way on many of the most evidence-based measures.”
Scotland has invested “record amounts” in treatment services, the report states, increasing the proportion of people in treatment compared with England and Wales where there has not been the same injection of resources.
The ban on bulk-buy discounts is also cited in the report.
The SNP Government’s decision to introduce minimum alcohol pricing, currently subject to a European legal challenge by the drinks industry, is also hailed by the report which says the UK Government should also adopt this approach.
The Scottish Government should now switch its focus to tackling the marketing of alcohol, the report adds.
“This would be the obvious way for the Scottish Government to continue to lead on evidence-based alcohol policy, providing that they can persuade Westminster to devolve the relevant powers,” the report adds.
“Their stated position of banning television advertising before the 9pm watershed seems a good starting point; as does banning alcohol-related sports sponsorship.”
The Scottish Government’s public health minister Maureen Watt welcomed the report but stressed that an average of about 22 people a week still die because of alcohol.
“There can be no room for complacency,” she said.
“That is why we are working on the next phase of our alcohol strategy which will be ready in 2016.”
Ms Watt insisted that minimum pricing is a key part of the Government’s package of measures to tackle the availability of “cheap, high strength alcohol that causes so much damage in our communities.”
“This report acknowledges that MUP, which is supported by Wales and Northern Ireland, could save thousands of lives and lead to substantial reductions in alcohol-related crime and absence from work,” she added.
But the “limited control” ministers have over marketing means this issue may have to be addressed at Westminster.
“We pressing the UK Government to do more to protect children from exposure to alcohol advertising in all its forms and consider a wider review of alcohol advertising,” she added.