Scottish Government
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Cost of alcohol abuse

Alcohol misuse could be costing Scottish taxpayers around £3.56 billion per year, according to an independent study.

The research, which looked at the impact across the NHS, police, social services, the economy and on families, estimated the total annual cost at between £2.48 billion and £4.64 billion - with a mid-point estimate of £3.56 billion.

Averaged across the population, the £3.56 billion figure means alcohol misuse could be costing every Scottish adult about £900 per year.

Even the lowest figure is substantially higher than the previous estimate of £2.25 billion per year.

Using the mid-point estimate of £3.56 billion in 2007:

  • Healthcare related costs were put at £268.8 million or 7.5 per cent of the total
  • Social care costs were estimated to be £230.5 million or 6.5 per cent of the total
  • Crime costs were put at £727.1 million or 20.4 per cent of the total
  • The cost to the productivity of the Scottish economy was £865.7 million or 24.3 per cent of the total
  • The human cost in terms of suffering caused by premature deaths was £1.46 billion or 41.2 per cent of the total

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said:

"This report, which takes a more comprehensive view than any previous study, indicates that the total cost of alcohol misuse to Scotland's economy and society is even worse than we thought.

"Not only does alcohol misuse burden our health service and police - it also has a terrifying knock-on effect on our economic potential and on the families devastated by death and illness caused by alcohol.

"The Scottish Government's Alcohol Bill includes a package of evidence-based measures to get to grips with this issue, including minimum pricing to combat the dirt-cheap ciders, lagers and low-grade spirits favoured by problem drinkers.

"It is supported by a broad coalition including the four Chief Medical Officers of the UK, the British Medical Association, the Royal Colleges, Church of Scotland, Association of Chief Police Officers of Scotland and the Scottish Licensed Trade Association. And on Friday, the House of Commons Health Committee also came out in favour of minimum pricing.

"The time for stalling is over and the need for action is clear. I call on all MSPs to do the right thing and support the measures in the Alcohol Bill."

Finance Secretary John Swinney said:

"It's clear that alcohol misuse is having a major detrimental effect on Scotland's economic potential.

"To put it in perspective, the mid-range estimate of 3.56 billion pounds for the total cost equates to around one tenth of Scotland's annual budget and 900 pounds for every adult in our country.

"The reality is that we are all paying the cost - even those of us who drink responsibly or not at all. At a time of financial pressure, it is essential we address this unacceptable drain on our public services and on business."

John Neilson, Assistant Chief Constable, Territorial Policing, for Strathclyde Police said:

"There is a clear link between alcohol and violence and we believe that drink is simply too cheap. Too many people are being hurt or even killed as a result of alcohol related violence. This simply has to change.

"People have to realise that drinking to excess not only blights our communities but puts them at increased risk of becoming either a victim or a perpetrator of crime.

"The availability of cheap booze has led to an increase in drinking and violence in homes and this makes any drink fuelled incidents more difficult for us to control. A minimum price for drink is not necessarily the only answer, but we believe that it would help to reduce the totally unacceptable levels of violence."

The Scottish Government introduced its Alcohol Bill to Parliament in November. Its proposals include:

  • A minimum price per unit of alcohol to raise the cost of the cheapest ciders, lagers and low-grade spirits favoured by problem drinkers
  • A ban on irresponsible off-sales promotions which encourage excessive drinking
  • A duty on licensing boards to consider raising the off-sales purchase age to 21 where appropriate to develop local solutions to local problems
  • A power to introduce a 'social responsibility fee' on some retailers to offset the costs of dealing with drink problems

The Scottish Government has committed investment of almost £120 million over the period of the spending review (2008-11): the single largest increase ever for tackling alcohol misuse in Scotland, and almost a tripling in resources.

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