AN NHS report has linked the affordability of alcohol to persistent high death rates in Scotland.
A total of three fifths of off-sales alcohol is sold below the Scottish government’s proposed minimum price of 50 pence per unit.
Scottish sales of alcohol are 19 per cent higher than in England and Wales, and death rates are also persistently higher.
West of Scotland MSP Stewart Maxwell believes the study “underlines the damage caused by Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol and the link between price and consumption”.
He said: “In the west of Scotland it’s possible to exceed the maximum weekly recommended intake of alcohol for less than £4.
“We know from international evidence that tackling price can help reduce alcohol consumption and related harm.
“The introduction of a minimum price per unit of alcohol will help save lives. It’s the right thing to do .”
However, Labour’s public health spokesman Dr Richard Simpson argues the Scottish Government is being short-sighted, and has pinned all its hopes on minimum unit pricing.
He said: “That policy is currently languishing in the courts.
“We can’t wait to see what happens so as a party we are working on a members bill that would tackle alcohol abuse head on.
“We would encourage all concerned parties to back our proposals.”
Neil Craig, Public Health Adviser at NHS Health Scotland and one of the report’s authors, said: “This study finds more evidence of the well-known link between the affordability of alcohol and harmful drinking.
“The most deprived groups in Scotland experienced the biggest falls in deaths from alcohol and these falls began before the economic downturn.”