Cost to Scottish communities of alcohol abuse revealed

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  By Bob Duncan
 
Glasgow Shettleston’s MSP, John Mason, has today commented on statistics produced by Alcohol Focus Scotland, which estimate the financial cost to the community caused by alcohol abuse in Glasgow.
 
For the first time these statistics have been produced across Scotland, broken down by local authority area, and estimates that the total cost of alcohol harm to the city is around £364 million a year.  This equates to an annual cost to every Glasgow resident of £615, or over £3000 for a family of five.

The analysis has been carried out to show the total cost of health, crime, social care and productive capacity at a local authority area level.  The profiles for each local authority area in Scotland provide more evidence of the need for licensing boards to take action to restrict the availability of alcohol in their areas.

Launching the report, Dr Evelyn Gillan, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said: “It is clear that alcohol is costing us all too much”.

“Scotland is unique in having a licensing system which requires licensing boards to consider the protection and improvement of public health when taking decisions about licensing. But we need to make sure that this principle is put into practice,” she continued.

“With the majority of alcohol sold in Scotland bought from supermarkets, and most people drinking at home, we need to shift the focus of licensing away from individual on-sales premises to managing the overall availability of alcohol.

“We hope that these figures will assist Glasgow Licensing Board in their work to regulate licensing in order to reduce both the harm caused by alcohol and the cost to the public purse.”

In Glasgow City, the estimated costs of alcohol-related harm in 2010/11 were:

  • Health service: £40.17m
  • Social care: £56.06m
  • Crime: £152.12m
  • Productive capacity: £116.43m
  • Total cost: £364.79m
  • Cost per person: £615

Commenting on the figures revealed in the report, local MSP John Mason, said:

“The news that alcohol abuse is costing Glasgow £365 million a year is, I am afraid, merely a confirmation of what many people will have feared. 

“The figure does not, of course, quantify the human cost to individuals and families, or the wider loss in economic potential.  However, it does give us some idea of what a significant amount of time the health service, police and social services spend on dealing with this issue.

“I am certainly not against people enjoying a drink, and do so myself.  However, these figures are clearly a major wake-up call.  They remind us that Glasgow Shettleston has an alcohol death rate over five times higher (574%) than the UK average. 

Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP, Alasdair Allan also commented on the report, which showed that even the thinly populated Western Isles have an annual cost of £10 million for alcohol abuse

He said: “All this makes me more convinced than ever that Scotland is doing the right thing by clamping down on the availability of ultra-cheap forms of alcohol through minimum pricing. There are clearly other huge cultural issues to be tackled. But we should try to tackle them.”

Meanwhile, Tory MEP Struan Stevenson made his position on minimum alcohol pricing very clear during a meeting he was convening in the EU.  He said: “This policy [minimum pricing] will inevitably render imported alcoholic products less competitive, thereby breaching EU competition and free movement of goods laws.”

According to the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), Mr Stevenson organised the event in Strasbourg “to discuss the Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) on alcohol approved by the Scottish Parliament in May, and its alleged potential impact on trade.”

They added, “The gathering appears to be an ‘industry convention’ and therefore an unbalanced attempt to mislead participants on the legality of the proposal, diverting attention from the benefits that a MUP on alcohol will have on heavy drinkers and society as a whole.”

Monika Kosińska, Secretary General of EPHA said:

“Mr Stevenson’s opposition to minimum pricing appears to be based on the assumption that the Scottish MUP on alcohol discriminates against imported alcoholic drinks, most of which come from other EU Member States.  This is simply incorrect.

“As this rule applies to all, local and imported, alcohol brands operating in Scotland, the scheme does not contravene any rules of the European Union (EU) Internal Market.

“Mr Stevenson’s decision to break ranks with his Scottish Conservative Party (which supports the legislation on minimum alcohol pricing) raises questions about the credibility of today’s debate.”