Too many Scots drink to get drunk, say experts

MORE work is needed to get Scots to change their views on alcohol, experts said, as research showed many still hold “permissive” views about getting drunk.

Research has shown many people still hold permissive views about getting drunk. Picture: TSPL
Research has shown many people still hold permissive views about getting drunk. Picture: TSPL

Results from the Scottish Social Attitudes survey revealed an increase in people who thought it was easier to enjoy a social event if they had a drink, up from 35 per cent in 2004 to 39 per cent in 2013.

But the research by ScotCen Social Research, commissioned by Health Scotland, also found that most people were in favour of a minimum price for alcohol.

Overall, 41 per cent of more than 1,500 people questioned were in favour of a minimum unit price, with 35 per cent against and 22 per cent neither for nor against it. Those findings were welcomed by the Scottish Government, whose minimum pricing policy has been delayed by legal challenges from the alcohol industry.

The research also found that in some areas, Scots had a greater recognition of the dangers posed by irresponsible alcohol consumption.

In 2013, 60 per cent thought alcohol was the drug causing most problems in Scotland, up from 46 per cent in 2004.

Despite this, there has been little change in attitudes to getting drunk. In 2004, 18 per cent of people thought it was acceptable to get drunk at weekends, rising to 19 per cent in 2013.

However, there was a fall among younger people, aged 18 to 29, with 53 per cent agreeing it was acceptable to get drunk at weekends in 2004, dropping to 40 per cent in 2013.

On the price of alcohol, around half, 46 per cent, thought supermarkets sold too much alcohol at very cheap prices.

Lisa Rutherford, research director at ScotCen Social Research, said: “More people are aware of how potentially harmful alcohol can be, and few view excessive drinking as acceptable.

“However, some still hold permissive views towards alcohol and getting drunk. Given the relatively minor shift in views since 2004, fostering a more positive approach to drinking in Scotland is likely to be an ongoing challenge.”

Health secretary Alex Neil said: “The fact that more than eight out of ten people surveyed thought that alcohol causes considerable harm shows there is a need to bring in measures that can tackle these issues.

“The evidence shows that introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol would be an effective way to tackle the availability of high-strength, cheap alcohol – the type that causes the most problems in Scotland.”

But David Frost, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, said: “More than a third of those surveyed are against minimum pricing, and more than a fifth do not have a strong view on it.

“This illustrates opposition or indifference towards minimum pricing, despite the Scottish Government presenting it as its flagship policy to tackle alcohol misuse.”