ALCOHOL-related deaths have fallen significantly in Scotland in contrast with the rest of the UK, new figures show.
The death rate for men dropped by 37 per cent in the decade between 2002 and 2012, a report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals.
In contrast, it rose by around 2 per cent in England and 15 per cent in Wales, while Northern Ireland experienced an 8 per cent fall.
The death rate for women in Scotland also fell by 34 per cent over the same period, according to the report.
It said: “Although the rate was significantly higher in Scotland than in any other UK country in 2002, a 34 per cent decrease compared with increases in England, Wales and Northern Ireland meant that the rate in Scotland in 2012 was not significantly different from the rate in Wales and Northern Ireland.
“Of the four UK constituent countries, only in Scotland were male and female death rates in 2012 significantly lower than in 2002.”
Despite the drop, Scotland’s death rates remained higher than in the rest of the UK for both men and women, the report said.
Campaigners welcomed the figures but said more work was needed to tackle the problem of alcohol harm.
Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “It is obviously good news that alcohol-related deaths in Scotland have fallen in recent years, but this doesn’t mean we can sit back and do nothing. Alcohol remains a huge public health problem.
“Twenty Scottish people are still dying because of alcohol every week. Every alcohol-related death is a tragedy for the person, and the family and friends they leave behind.
“We know what preventative action works - making alcohol less affordable, less available, and less visible. Minimum unit pricing must be introduced as soon as possible.”
The Scottish Government’s plans for a minimum price for alcohol are currently on hold pending the outcome of a legal challenge at the Court of Session.
Drinks industry bodies have opposed the legislation - which would see a minimum unit price of 50p brought in north of the border - since it was passed by MSPs in 2012.
Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said: “While we welcome the decline in deaths highlighted in this report, the fact remains that, on average, 20 people are dying per week in Scotland due to alcohol.
“Alcohol-related deaths remain much higher than they were in the 1980s and, for men in particular, rates in Scotland are much higher than our counterparts in other parts of the UK.
“There is no single measure which will change Scotland’s relationship with alcohol, however as part of a concerted range of measures we believe that a minimum price per unit of alcohol will be an effective and efficient way to tackle alcohol misuse in Scotland.
“Given the link between consumption and harm, and evidence that affordability is one of the drivers of increased consumption, addressing price is an important element of any long-term strategy to tackle alcohol misuse.
“This is only one measure in our Alcohol Framework which outlines a package of more than 40 measures to reduce alcohol-related harm by helping prevent problems arising in the first place and by improving support and treatment for those who are already experiencing problems.
“We have backed up implementation of the Framework with a record investment of £237 million since 2008, with £211 million of this being invested in local prevention, treatment and support services to prevent alcohol related problems occurring in the first place and to tackle problem alcohol use.”