Radical shake-up backed to fight Scotland's alcohol problem

Health group SHAAP has set out 20 recommendations to reduce alcohol-related harm in ScotlandHealth group SHAAP has set out 20 recommendations to reduce alcohol-related harm in Scotland
Health group SHAAP has set out 20 recommendations to reduce alcohol-related harm in Scotland
Health campaigners are calling on MSPs to back alcohol-only checkouts in supermarkets and licensed shops as part of a package of measures to tackle alcohol-related deaths and illnesses in Scotland.

Alcohol adverts and sponsorship in sport should be outlawed immediately, the Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) said, as it called for the radical shake-up after May’s Holyrood election.

The advertising of all alcoholic products should also be phased out, except in pubs and other licensed premises, according to SHAAP.

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Minimum pricing for alcohol should be introduced “as soon as possible” along with the creation of a national licensing authority to monitor the numbers of venues selling alcohol, as well as their opening hours, the group said.

Powers over all alcohol advertising, including over broadcast, the internet and social media, should also be devolved to Holyrood to allow Scottish ministers to deliver the changes after the election on 5 May.

A manifesto from SHAAP sets out its top twenty recommendations, which it says are needed to reduce alcohol-related harm. It says this accounts for the deaths of 20 Scots every week.

The call came after official figures this month showed Scotland had the worst rate for alcohol-related deaths in any part of the UK.

Alcohol death rates for men in Scotland stood at 31.2 per 100,000 of the population, compared with 18.1 per 100,000 in England, 20.3 in Northern Ireland and 19.9 for Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics.

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.

However, SHAAP said the Scottish Government should go much further and stated that alcohol-only checkouts “should be established by law in all licensed retail outlets”.

Dr Peter Rice, chairman of SHAAP, said: “There are other new actions, for instance, on licensing and the way alcohol is sold, which we are keen to see introduced.”

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The intervention from SHAAP received a mixed reaction from the main parties at Holyrood.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said the organisation was “simply encouraging a fresh raft of regulation”, but a Scottish Labour spokesman said the party would “look at these proposals with interest”.

Scottish Greens Lothians MSP Alison Johnstone said the suggestions were “welcome”.

SNP MSP Mike Mackenzie said: “We believe that minimum unit pricing will play a vital role in tackle the availability of cheap, high strength alcohol.

“We will continue to make the case for the implementation of this policy.”