Scotland politics

Drink-related harm costs Scotland's councils £2bn annually, says charity

young people drinking
Image caption Alcohol Focus Scotland said alcohol was costing "all too much"

Drink-related harm costs Scotland's 32 local authorities £2bn each year, according to a Scots charity.

Alcohol Focus Scotland looked at the financial impact on health, crime, social care and productivity in each council area.

It based its figures on Scottish government data produced in 2007.

The organisation found that the bill for Glasgow was £364.7m; in Edinburgh it amounted to £221.28m and Aberdeen City Council costs totalled £120.92m.

Alcohol Focus Scotland, which holds its annual licensing conference in Glasgow on Wednesday, claimed it was the first time analysis had been carried out to show the total impact on health, crime, social care and productive capacity.

The body said the statistics showed the need for licensing boards to take action to restrict the availability of alcohol in their areas.

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.

"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."

On the area with the highest cost estimate, she added: "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."

Health Secretary Alex Neil said that the findings demonstrated the "continuing extent of Scotland's alcohol misuse problem which costs Scotland £3.6bn per year".

He added: "Alcohol sales are still unacceptably high, with enough alcohol being sold for every adult to exceed weekly recommended limits for men (21 units) each and every week since at least 2000.

"While it is a matter for individual licensing boards to issue licences based on applications made to them, I welcome boards making use of the powers granted in the Licensing (Scotland) 2005 Act, such as the over provision policy, to address Scotland's troubled relationship with alcohol."

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