Scots’ drink levels up as off-licence sales soar

Scotland is now a nation of home drinkers rather than pub-goers. Picture: iStock
Scotland is now a nation of home drinkers rather than pub-goers. Picture: iStock
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Alcohol sales have soared for the first time in six years as the average adult Scot bought the equivalent of 41 one-litre bottles of vodka last year.

More than 10 litres of pure alcohol were sold per adult last year, equivalent to 116 bottles of wine or 477 pints of beer, NHS data revealed today.

The concerning trend has been linked to an increase in drinking at home as cheap supermarket booze made up around three quarters of all alcohol sold – the highest market share since recording began in 1994.

Senior public health figures branded the findings “concerning”, as alcohol consumption had been falling since 2009 before beginning to rise again. Around 22 Scots die from alcohol-related harm and 670 people are admitted to hospital each week, as health bosses struggle to tackle the nation’s harmful relationship with drinking.

The new figures show 20 per cent more alcohol was sold per adult in Scotland than in England and Wales.

Dr Mark Robinson, senior public health information manager at NHS Health Scotland, said: “It is concerning that the recent falls in population alcohol consumption have reversed and that off-trade alcohol sales have reached their highest level.

“Higher levels of alcohol consumption result in higher levels of alcohol-related harm and these present a substantial public health and economic cost to Scotland.”

Ministers say the report highlights the urgent need for minimum unit pricing, which has been on hold due to a legal challenge from the Scotch Whisky Association.

The proposed law would create a floor price for alcohol, preventing the sale of cheap high strength ciders and own brand spirits.

In supermarkets and off-licenses, the average unit price was just 52p while pubs and clubs charged around £1.74.

Public health minister Aileen Campbell said: “Given the link between consumption and harm, and evidence that affordability is one of the drivers of increased consumption, addressing price is essential.”

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said: “Scotland is now a nation of home drinkers, with more alcohol sold through supermarkets and off-licences than ever before.

“The more affordable alcohol is, the more we drink, and this means more alcohol-related hospital admissions, crime and deaths.

“Like the tobacco industry, the alcohol industry is placing profits before people’s health.”