THE number of deaths due to alcohol in Scotland has hit its highest level since 2008, new figures show. 

Statistics published by the National Records of Scotland show alcohol-specific deaths jumped by 17 per cent to 1,190 last year, up from 1,020 in 2019.

This marks a return to the previous upward trend following a decline the year before.

The death rate in the most deprived areas is 4.3 times that of the least deprived.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said: “It is devastating to hear that the number of deaths linked to alcohol harm has increased in Scotland.

"This follows a similar pattern to elsewhere in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic and demonstrates the urgent need to act on this parallel health crisis.

“We cannot afford to continue ignoring the damage that alcohol is inflicting on communities around the UK.

"Though the Scottish Government has led the way with innovative alcohol harm prevention policies - like minimum unit pricing – there is still more to do to tackle alcohol harm including ensuring access to alcohol treatment for all who need it.

"This must be backed up by urgent action from the UK Government in the form of effective alcohol taxes and alcohol advertising restrictions on TV and online to protect children. Lives depend on it.” 

Elsewhere, probable suicide deaths fell by 3% in 2020 to 805 deaths, down from 833 in 2019. 

There was a 1.1% decrease, to 6,352, in deaths where Alzheimer’s and other dementias were the underlying cause.

Meanwhile, there were 2,759 accidental deaths in Scotland, a 1.2% increase compared with 2019.

The majority of accidental deaths were the result of accidental poisonings or falls.

The death rate from all causes for people in the most deprived areas is 1.9 times that of those in the least deprived.

Death rates for drug-related (18.4 times as large) alcohol-specific deaths (4.3 times as large) and suicides (3 times as large) were notably higher in the most deprived areas.

Pete Whitehouse, director of statistical services at the NRS, said: “NRS figures released today show a marked increase in the number of deaths due to alcohol, reversing the fall seen in 2019. 

“Monthly analysis shows that alcohol-specific deaths were higher than average in 10 months of 2020. 

"From August to November deaths were similar to or substantially higher than the highest numbers seen during these months over the last five years.

“Suicide deaths decreased slightly on the 2019 level. 

"Monthly figures show that suicide deaths between June and September of 2020 were consistently above the highest numbers seen in these months over the last 5 years.”

The publications Probable suicides 2020Alcohol-specific deaths 2020 and Deaths from specific causes 2020 are available on the NRS website.