By Katrine Bussey
SCOTS should cut the amount of alcohol they drink by at least 10 per cent over the next decade because of the “devastating impact” alcohol abuse has on public services and communities, according to campaigners.
The new target has been set as part of efforts to improve the lives of millions of people north of the Border by cutting down on alcohol-related crime and the impact it has on the health service.
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A new report by Alcohol Focus, the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland, and other groups, Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol & Drugs, and Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) said the reduction could “potentially deliver a 20 per cent reduction in deaths and hospital admissions after 20 years.”
Holyrood has passed legislation to bring in minimum pricing but a legal challenge to the policy has so far prevented ministers from implementing it, with the case now set to call at the Supreme Court.
The blueprint said: “Such a target would provide a clear goal for all of those with an interest in preventing and reducing alcohol consumption and harm in Scotland, at both national and local levels, helping to ensure that efforts are focused and co-ordinated on delivering real impact.”
It makes more than 40 suggestions to the Scottish Government.
The report, published by Alcohol Focus Scotland, the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland, It also calls for a 50p minimum unit price for alcohol to be implemented “as soon as legally possible”.
Holyrood has passed legislation to bring in minimum pricing but a legal challenge to the policy has so far prevented ministers from implementing it, with the case now set to be brought before the UK Supreme Court.
Other recommendations include a ban on all alcohol price discounting, the development of a new approach to reducing availability, and restrictions on off-sales licensing hours.
Ministers are urged to explore “mechanisms for reducing accessibility in off-sales” such as requiring stores selling alcohol to have separate areas or check-outs for this, and banning the sale of alcohol at self-service check-outs.
On pricing, the report urges the Scottish Government to press UK ministers to create a new tax band for strong ciders and similar drinks “significantly increasing the rate at which these drinks are taxed to reflect their alcohol content”.
It said that a planned 22 per cent cut in direct Scottish Government funding for Alcohol and Drugs Partnerships is a “false economy”, with health boards unlikely to make up all of the shortfall in cash.
Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “Minimum unit pricing will hopefully be introduced next year, but further action is required to turn off the tap of alcohol harm, rather than simply treating the symptoms.”
Dr Peter Bennie, of BMA Scotland, said: “The proposals we are jointly publishing today will be the yardstick against which the Scottish Government’s willingness to go further will be measured.
“They show how we can build upon the work that has already been done to reduce the harms that are caused by alcohol misuse in Scotland.”
Public health minister Aileen Campbell said: “We welcome this report. Its recommendations are wide-ranging and we will consider them carefully as we refresh our Alcohol Strategy this year.”
Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol & Drugs, and Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems also contributed to the report.