Is Scotland the safest place to be an alcoholic?

How Scots are defying medical statistics for drink-related deaths.

James McAvoy in Filth portrayed Scotland’s dark sideImage Picture Moviestore/REX Shutterstock

Counter to what James McAvoy keeps snarling in Filth, the same rules do not apply to Scots when it comes to alcoholism.

Drink-related deaths in Scotland have fallen significantly compared to the rest of the UK, and it’s happened while Scots go on drinking more than their counterparts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A recent NHS report showed Scots neck close on 20 per cent more per year than the rest of the boozers in Britain. Whatever you like to say about the Scots, it can’t be claimed they are afraid to live up to their own hardy cliché.

The average Scot drinks the equivalent of 41 bottles of vodka and 114 bottles of wine per year

They are mixing it up, too. The NHS Scotland report claims the average Scot now drinks the equivalent of 41 bottles of vodka and 114 bottles of wine per year (it doesn’t detail how many of those are Buckfast.) In other words, they are necking more than the recommended daily alcohol intake every day.

Nor is it just the result of the Scots’ famous sociability. Pubs north of the border are as much in decline as elsewhere in Britain, with 72 per cent of alcohol sold last year bought from shops and off licenses for home consumption – the highest figure since records began more than 20 years ago.

The fall in alcohol-related deaths in Scotland isn’t that great though: booze still kills the equivalent of 20 people a week there.

Robert Burns loved a tipple
No Burns victim Robert Burns wrote about booze, ‘O thou, my muse! guid auld Scotch drink!’ Image Picture Hulton Archive

The last major report on drink-related deaths showed that those in Scotland fell significantly in the 10 years from 2002 to 2012, bucking the trend in the rest of the UK.

Figures from the Office Of National Statistics showed death rates rose in England by two per cent and Wales by 15 per cent over the period. But in Scotland, they fell by 37 per cent for men and 34 per cent for women. The total also dropped by eight per cent in Northern Ireland.

However Scottish authorities are still intent on further cutting the number of Scotland’s drink-related deaths. Public Health Minister Maureen Watt said, “We remain absolutely committed to tackling Scotland’s difficult relationship with alcohol head on.”

Watt proposes minimum unit pricing as a possible solution, while admitting, “No single measure will help change our relationship with alcohol.”

Maybe double measures would be better.

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Loaded freelance reporter Ian Gittins writes about music for several newspapers and websites. He is also a best-selling author who specialises in ghostwriting autobiographies. Follow him on Twitter at @iangittins

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