Alcohol-related deaths in Scotland reach highest level in 13 years

Deaths from alcohol in Scotland have risen to their highest level in 13 years, according to official figures released on Thursday which further undermined the SNP’s flagship minimum price policy.

The National Records of Scotland (NRS) revealed that 1,245 people died of alcohol-specific causes in 2021, a 5% increase on the previous year’s total and the highest death toll since 2008 .

Scotland had an alcohol-related death rate of 22.3 people per 100,000 population, the highest level in the UK and well above the English rate of 13 in 2020, the latest year for which figures were available.

The report also found that the death rate was 5.6 times higher in Scotland’s poorest communities than in the wealthiest. Experts have expressed concern that increased alcohol consumption during lockdown is now translating into increased deaths.

Nicola Sturgeon’s government introduced a minimum unit price (MUP) of 50p in a bid to raise the cost of cheap alcohol and force problem drinkers to cut back.

But a report by Public Health Scotland in June found that problem drinkers had instead cut back on their food and heating to continue funding their drinking.

The alcohol-related death figures were released the week after it emerged that the number of drug-related deaths in Scotland had fallen by less than 1% last year, although Nicola Sturgeon claimed that it was his government’s “national mission” to fight the epidemic.

“SNPs were found to be insufficient”

Scotland’s death rate remains nearly five times higher than that of England and Wales, and 3.8 times higher than that of Europe’s second-worst nation, Norway.

The Scottish Conservatives said it is the “poorest who have been most let down by the SNP government’s failure” to tackle drug or alcohol-related deaths.

Dr Sandesh Gulhane, GP and shadow health secretary for the Tories, said: ‘As with the epidemic of drug deaths, the crisis has only worsened under the watch of Nicola Sturgeon – and this are those in our most disadvantaged areas who suffer the most.

“Once again, the SNP government has been deemed insufficient. They mistakenly considered the minimum unit price as a panacea, when in reality it is a crude instrument to tackle a very complex problem.

Figures showed that two-thirds of people who died from conditions caused by alcohol were men, while the average age of death was 58.7 for women and 59.7 for men.

Over the past five years, areas of Inverclyde, Glasgow City, West Dunbartonshire, North Lanarkshire, Dundee City, North Ayrshire and Renfrewshire councils have all had death rates above the Scottish average.

Last year’s death toll remained lower than the 1,417 recorded in 2006. The total fell sharply to 968 in 2012, but has since risen again.

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