THE 1990s marked a turning point in how Scots consumed alcohol - and how many died as a result of a harmful relationship with drink.

The Herald:

Between 1979 and 1992, the number of direct alcohol deaths rose only slightly, from 389 to 410.

Then, in the space of the next 14 years, that figure soared. By 2006 - when alcohol-specific deaths peaked in Scotland - 1,417 people lost their lives.

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The trend was mirrored across the UK, coinciding with increased availability and affordability of alcohol in the off-trade - particularly as supermarket sales grew.

The Herald: Source: Institute of Alcohol StudiesSource: Institute of Alcohol Studies

Meanwhile, in Europe, alcohol deaths had been falling steadily since the 1970s.

By 2018, alcohol sold in the UK was 64% more affordable than it had been in 1987, and three quarters of alcohol consumed is now bought in the off-trade.

The effects were more rapid and pronounced in Scotland, however. Among men aged 45 to 64, the mortality rate from liver disease in Scotland in 2006 was more than double that seen in England and Wales.

Dr Peter Rice, chair of SHAAP, describes 1995 as Scotland’s “last year as a pub drinking country”, as off-trade consumption overtook that in bars.

“It had been a bit cheaper before to drink at home, but the gap got wider and wider,” he said.

“We saw the effects of that clinically. I started as an NHS consultant in 1990 and you would see regular pub drinkers, but that just became less and less frequent as time went by.”

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This led to a push for minimum pricing along with measures such as bans on alcohol multi-buy deals, which are credited with helping to reduce alcohol deaths after 2006.

The 1990s also saw the normalisation of alcohol as a commodity, something Dr Rice would like to see reversed.

He said: “Customer practice changed in the 1990s. Alcohol moved out from being in a separate bit of the shop - incidentally something we’re pushing to be brought back - to being displayed on the mainstream shelves, where it became subject to price wars.

"Much of what we've been pushing for in the last 10 to 15 years has been driven by that analysis: that supermarkets have been the driver."