Tackling Scotland's Alcohol Problem

Alcohol charities fear conflict of interest: 23/09/2013

24th September 2013

Health campaigners expressed surprise that a current senior civil servant in a key Department dealing with the implementation of minimum unit pricing has been confirmed as the incoming Chief Executive of the Scotch Whisky Association. 

Dr Peter Rice, chair of SHAAP said: “The Scotch Whisky Association is currently involved in legal action in Scottish courts which is delaying the implementation of the Minimum Unit Price legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament in May 2012. Part of the SWA’s campaign against MUP has been focused on the trade implications for Europe, and SHAAP has previously pointed out the misinformation the alcohol industry has been disseminating in Europe. 

The SWA’s appointment of Mr Frost, described as the senior official responsible for the UK’s Government’s trade policy with the EU, raises some questions. Will he continue to represent the UK government in trade discussions involving alcohol until he takes up his SWA post? When did his relationship with the SWA start and what role has he played in the development of his Department’s policy on minimum unit pricing?”

Dr Evelyn Gillan, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said: “AFS has been closely involved in countering the SWA’s challenge to minimum unit pricing by presenting the evidence that it will reduce harm and save lives. 

We were delighted that the Court found in favour of the Scottish Government in May and disappointed that the SWA and their allies immediately appealed, further delaying implementation. Mr Frost’s appointment to the organisation opposing minimum pricing is an obvious conflict of interest and another example of the revolving door between the public and private sector where gamekeeper turns poacher.”

The Scottish Health Survey: Alcohol Use

24th September 2013

Weekly alcohol consumption levels: Average unit consumption has fallen since 2003 and hazardous and harmful drinking prevalence has dropped since 2003 but 25% of men and 18% of women still drink at hazardous or harmful levels.

SHAAP Research and Policy Briefing No.3 September 2013

12th September 2013

This issue includes:

  • Is the price right? What health-care professionals need to know about alcohol sales and price
  • An update of alcohol consumption amongst women and older people
  • An update on minimum unit pricing policy

Next issue: November 2013

Joint statement on Minimum Alcohol Misuse and Unit Pricing

10th September 2013

A briefing paper from the British Medical Association (BMA), Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) and Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP). Click here for a copy

Decrease in alcohol related deaths (27th August 2013): Dispelling the myth that only the young are problem drinkers

27th August 2013

Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) welcomes the latest figures released by GROS today, which indicate a 13% drop in alcohol-related death since 2011 and the lowest annual total since 1997. 

There are a range of possible explanations for these figures, including changes in licensing laws, growing acceptance amongst the public of the harm caused by excessive alcohol consumption and an increase in the delivery of Alcohol Brief Interventions by health care professionals.

However, it would appear the most likely explanation for the reduction in consumption is a combination of declining disposal income during the recession and the relative increase in the retail price of alcohol. 

A closer look at the GROS statistics tells us that some groups of society are more vulnerable that others to alcohol related harm and that the most vulnerable are middle age men.

  •  Of the 1,080 alcohol related deaths in 2012, 741 were male deaths and 339 were female.
  • Older people are more likely to die of alcohol related illness than young people. In 2012, there were 420 alcohol-related death of people aged 45-59, 394 deaths of 60-74 year olds, compared to 145 deaths of people who were 30-44.
  • The statistics tell us that 45-49 age group has had the largest number of alcohol related deaths in almost every year since 1979.

These figures, coupled with the news that alcohol consumption has declined by 3% in the past year, are reasons for hope.  However, Scotland still consumes 6% more alcohol than it did in 1994. The number of alcohol related deaths twenty years ago was 582; in 2012 that number rose to 1,080. The need to address harmful alcohol use across the Scotland is still urgent.

SHAAP welcomes falling alcohol consumption

20th August 2013

Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) welcomes the latest alcohol sales figures released by NHS Health Scotland today. In the past year, sales of alcohol have declined by 3%, continuing a downward trend in consumption; between 2009 and 2012, sales declined by a total of 8%. Off-trade sales have also fallen by 3% in the last year.

An Evaluation of the Implementation of, And Compliance With, the Objectives of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 – Final Report May 2013 (NHS Health Scotland)

6th June 2013

Positive outcomes of the Act:

  • Fewer irresponsible promotions were reported as taking place in pubs and clubs.
  • A reduction in the direct sales of alcohol to underage young people.
  • The successful establishment of the role of Licensing Standards Officers.
  • Giving Licensing Boards the power to review, revoke or suspend licences was thought to be a useful deterrent and a useful sanction against any alcohol outlet guilty of poor practice.
  • Improved relationships between Licensing Boards /LSO’s and trade members.

Areas for development:

  • Role and functioning of Local Licensing Forums  - some evidence that these bodies have stalled.
  • The public health objective – the licensing objective that Boards, Forums and LSO’s most struggle to address.
  • The larger off-trade sector has largely been unaffected by the Act.
  • Better and more consistent data collection at local and national level.

Recommendations include:

  • More guidance and support to be given nationally in relation to the public health objective.
  • Scottish Government should continue to consider measures to address the pricing of alcohol – for example press for the introduction of MUP once the judicial process has been fully determined.
  • All Licensing Boards to give further thought to the operation and effectiveness of the public health objective.
  • National and local datasets to be collected and collated consistently by Boards and LSOs, in order that meaningful comparison can be made of an agreed minimum data set.

Briefing on Scottish court judgement on minimum pricing

30th May 2013

SHAAP and Alcohol Focus Scotland have published a joint briefing on the Scottish court judgement on MUP. 

Read it here


28th May 2013

New statistics published today by the Information Services Division (ISD) report a 1% decrease in alcohol-related discharges from hospital in 2011/12, against the previous year, and a 13% decrease since 2007/08 [1]. While welcoming this apparent decrease, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems is urging caution over the interpretation of these figures.

Dr Peter Rice, Chair, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), said,

“We welcome the slight reported decrease in alcohol-related discharges from Scottish hospitals, but there are no grounds for complacency. A range of measures have been implemented in recent years which we believe could be starting to have an impact. These include more effective and increased alcohol screening, greater public awareness and better licensing regulations. However, there is consistent evidence that alcohol-related harm falls during periods of economic recession. Affordability is likely to be a significant contributory factor to these new findings, we believe this is what we are seeing here and we should not rely on economic recession to reduce alcohol harm. We continue to support the introduction of minimum unit pricing, which will have a targeted effect in improving the health of those experiencing the most harm from alcohol. Benefits from this move will be sustained over time”.

Dr Rice added, 

“Alcohol-related hospital discharges in Scotland are still over three times as high as in the 1980’s and people living in the most deprived areas of Scotland continue to be disproportionately affected by alcohol-related harm. In all five years during which the latest statistics were gathered, the rate of alcohol-related general acute hospital discharges was approximately seven times greater for patients living in the most deprived areas compared to those living in the least deprived areas”.

Correction and amendment – ‘The (Ir)responsibility deal? Big business and public health

13th May 2013

On the 15th April SHAAP (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol) published ‘The (Ir)responsibility deal? Big Business and Public Health. 

It has come to our attention that the document contained a factual error; page 11 of the original stated that ‘Freedom to Choose’ received funding from the tobacco industry.

After careful investigation, we now believe that this is not the case and we unreservedly apologise for the error. The document has now been amended and is available to download on our website.

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