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Last Updated: Friday, 18 August 2006, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
Alcohol plan branded 'a failure'
Pint of beer
The action plan aimed to reduce the harm caused by alcohol
An action plan to tackle alcohol abuse has been branded a failure by a leading addictions expert.

Prof Neil McKeganey said some problems had got worse since a 2002 Scottish Executive document set out plans to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.

Since then alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions had gone up and underage drinking has risen, he said.

Deputy Health Minister Lewis Macdonald defended the executive's plans and said it took time to tackle the problem.

The executive is working on a new strategy and is planning to publish an updated action plan in the next few months.

We will not come away with knee-jerk reactions and pretend that somehow the government can solve this on its own
Lewis Macdonald
Deputy Health Minister

Prof McKeganey, from Glasgow University's Centre for Drug Misuse Research, said: "Scotland is now among the highest areas in Europe for alcohol-related harm.

"On that basis you would have to say the document didn't succeed - it failed.

"Personally, I think the document looks like something produced by a committee where there is an attempt to nod in everyone's interests."

Alex Meikle, from the Glasgow Council on Alcohol, said: "Hospital admissions for alcohol use have increased over the period, there is a lot more availability of alcohol now than ever before and it is much more accessible and affordable.

"However, I think the balance has become better and the awareness of alcohol issues, both as professionals and the general public, has become much higher."

Responsible use

Mr Macdonald admitted that the figures had got worse but added that when alcohol problems developed over a person's lifetime they were not going to be resolved in four years.

"While some of the evidence of people doing themselves harm with alcohol continued to get worse, there is also evidence of real and effective intervention by health services, police services and others in order to deal with the consequences," he said.

He added that the executive had acted on anti-social behaviour and licensing .

"The issue we need to tackle here is the responsible use of alcohol," he said.

"We are keen to work with supermarkets, pubs, clubs and those which produce alcohol, such as the Scotch Whisky Association.

"We will not come away with knee-jerk reactions and pretend that somehow the government can solve this on its own.

"What we can do is raise awareness.

"We need to think about our own consumption but also the pressures and expectations we are putting on others."

Hopefully this will now be the start of a national debate looking at what action can be taken to address a serious and growing problem
Stewart Maxwell
SNP deputy health spokesperson

Scottish National Party deputy health spokesperson Stewart Maxwell said urgent action was required to address the growing problem.

He said: ┐Hopefully this will now be the start of a national debate looking at what action can be taken to address a serious and growing problem.

"Not only do we need to examine our licensing laws but also advertising, availability and affordability of alcohol.

"The effects of alcohol on our communities are plain to see up and down the country, not just on individuals who choose to drink. We must start to address this growing problem now instead of sticking to a failed plan."


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Why the plan has been branded a 'failure'



SEE ALSO
Warning over toll of drunk teens
17 Aug 06 |  Scotland
Alcohol damage to babies concern
16 Aug 06 |  Scotland
Warning over drink peer pressure
14 Aug 06 |  Scotland
Drink culture death rate warning
05 Jan 06 |  Scotland
Alcohol takes toll on Scots NHS
15 Dec 05 |  Scotland

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