Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Alcohol Focus Scotland launches manifesto to tackle harm from alcohol

Ahead of the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary elections AFS has launched their new manifesto calling on all candidates and parties to commit to:

  • Take action to restrict alcohol marketing
  • Mandate nutrition and health information on alcohol labels
  • Address the low-cost of alcohol
  • Tackle the easy availability of alcohol
  • Provide support that saves lives and promotes recovery

Legislation approved by previous parliaments has had a positive effect on reducing alcohol consumption and harm, but as we prepare for recovery from the pandemic we need to renew our efforts.

The unjust and unacceptable cost of alcohol

Every day in Scotland, 10 people die and over 100 people are hospitalised due to alcohol. Around a quarter of adults in Scotland drink more than the Chief Medical Officers’ low-risk guidelines, meaning that at least one million of us are putting our health at risk due to our drinking.

Alcohol is a leading risk factor for death, disability, and ill health in Scotland. It causes over 200 health conditions and diseases such as liver cirrhosis, cancer, heart disease and stroke, can affect our mental health and contributes to the breakdown of families and relationships.

It is unjust and unacceptable that those of us who experience the greatest inequalities suffer the most. People in our poorest communities are seven times more likely to be admitted to hospital and over four times more likely to die due to alcohol than those in our most affluent areas.

Our problems with alcohol mean that we did not go into the COVID-19 crisis fighting fit. The pandemic and the associated restrictions have polarised drinking patterns; around one million people in Scotland reported drinking more than usual during lockdown, with those who were already drinking at heavier levels more likely to have increased. For those who need it, easy access to treatment and support is an essential part of their recovery. However, more than ever we needmpreventative alcohol policies that save and improve lives and reduce demand on our NHS.

Prevention is possible

Scotland can continue to lead the way with our progressive whole population approach to alcohol, founded on protecting and promoting the right to health. The evidence to date from the evaluation of minimum unit pricing (MUP) shows that the right policies can help change Scotland’s drinking culture. As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Christie Commission, prevention and reducing inequalities must be at the heart of Scotland’s recovery.

Addressing the price, availability and marketing of unhealthy products is essential to reducing the harm they cause. This has been accepted for decades on tobacco, with significant success. Minimum unit pricing and multi-buy restrictions have shown regulation works for alcohol too.

Our recommendations

Restrict alcohol marketing

  • Introduce an independent system of marketing regulation to protect the vulnerable, particularly children and young people. This should include restrictions on outdoor advertising, sport and event sponsorship and digital media.

Mandate alcohol labelling

  • Mandate nutrition and health information on alcohol labels to enable people to make informed and healthier choices.

Increase the price

  • Raise the minimum unit price for alcohol to reflect price inflation and to optimise the effect of the policy in reducing alcohol harm.
  • Link future price increases to inflation or the retail price index.
  • Establish an alcohol harm prevention supplement on alcohol sold in the off-trade, to offset the costs of alcohol to our communities.

Control availability

  • Hold a national conversation to inform the development of a national availability strategy to reduce health and social harm.
  • Review and improve public participation in the licensing system to ensure it better meets the needs of local communities.

Provide support that saves lives and promotes recovery

  • Ensure people have timely access to quality, rights-based treatment, which is informed by research into the level of need and evidence of effectiveness in supporting people in their recovery.
  • Encourage investment in preventative, early identification services as part of a whole systems approach to alcohol treatment and care.

 Read our manifesto Tackling harm from alcohol: alcohol policy priorities for the next Parliament 


26 March 2021.