NICOLA STURGEON has warned the economic recovery has led to an increase in drink-related deaths among Scots as they have more money to spend.
The First Minister warned alcohol-related deaths have risen in Scotland in the past two years which threatens to undermine the progress which has been made in changing Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with the bottle.
Ms Sturgeon told a global conference in Edinburgh yesterday aimed at tackling alcohol abuse that it underlines the need for minimum unit pricing to tackle the issue.
There are indications that Scotland’s efforts to tackle alcohol misuse are having some effect, the SNP leader said, after a 9 per cent fall in Scots’ level of drinking since 2009.
Drink-related deaths doubled between 1981 and 2003, but have fallen back by a third since then.
“It’s possible that we are beginning to shift individual behaviour and public attitudes. Scotland might – just might – be starting to develop a healthy relationship with alcohol.”
There were 1,152 alcohol-related deaths in 2014, a 5 per cent increase on 2013 and the second year in a row the figures have gone up. More than twice as many men as women died, with 784 male and 368 female deaths. The largest number of deaths was in the 45-59 age group, with 482 dying, ten more than in 2013.
The First Minister admitted that the increase was a worry.
“I think that provides strong evidence that many of the changes we’ve seen in people’s behaviour are heavily influenced by affordability,” she added.
“Our framework has helped reduce consumption, that is true. But so too, let’s be frank about it, did the economic downturn. As economic recovery continues, as unemployment falls and living standards rise, the improved affordability of alcohol seems to causing an increase again in consumption.
“There’s a danger, therefore, that most of the good work in recent years could be undone. So that is why reducing the affordability of alcohol is in my view the best way of reducing that harm that it causes.”
The minimum pricing proposals are caught up in European courts after a challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association.