Scots Alcohol Deaths At 6 Year High

2 August 2017, 14:38 | Updated: 2 August 2017, 14:39

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Alcohol-related deaths in Scotland rose by 10% last year, reaching the highest level for six years.

New figures from the National Records of Scotland show there were 1,265 deaths in 2016, up 115 from 1,150 in 2015.

The number represents the highest total since 2010, when 1,318 alcohol-related deaths were recorded, and is the third largest annual increase behind an 18% surge in 1996 and an 11% rise in 1999.

Men accounted for 867 deaths and females 398.

The age group with the highest number of deaths, at 503, was 45-59, while a further 468 deaths occurred in the 60-74 age group.

The rise prompted fresh calls for a "bold" alcohol strategy, and support for minimum unit pricing.

The pricing policy is currently being challenged in the courts, with the Supreme Court in London assessing the Scotch Whisky Association's latest appeal.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of charity Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: "Behind these appalling statistics are real people - sons, daughters, husbands, wives, parents, friends and colleagues - who have died too young because of a substance that's cheap, widely available and constantly promoted.

"Alcohol-related deaths are preventable. Increasing the price of the cheapest, strongest drinks through minimum unit pricing will reduce consumption and save hundreds of people's lives, particularly those living in our poorest communities.

"As well as minimum pricing, we need to see bold and proportionate action from the Scottish Government in its forthcoming alcohol strategy. This must focus on reducing the widespread availability and marketing of alcohol to make it easier for people to drink less."

Dr Peter Bennie, chair of the British Medical Association Scotland, said: "These latest figures showing a worrying increase in alcohol-related deaths last year make clear the scale of the damage caused by Scotland's relationship with alcohol.

"It underlines why as a country we need to redouble our efforts to tackle the harms caused by alcohol misuse, and why we need the Scottish Government's coming alcohol strategy refresh to include the kind of wide-ranging measures the BMA and other alcohol campaigners recently called for, including action on marketing and availability.

"Chief amongst these though is the need for minimum unit pricing, a policy that big alcohol producers have spent far too long delaying and trying to prevent and which must be implemented as swiftly as possible once the legal process finally ends."