Page last updated at 11:58 GMT, Friday, 26 September 2008 12:58 UK

Scots drinkers down more spirits

Whisky bottles
Scots drinkers downed almost two litres more spirits last year

People in Scotland drank almost two litres more pure alcohol last year than those living in other parts of Britain, according to new research.

The figures from Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (Shaap) were based on alcohol sales data.

They showed an average Scot over the age of 16 consumed 11.8 litres compared to 9.9 litres in England and Wales.

The higher level north of the border was due to the fact that Scots drinkers consumed more spirits.

In total, almost eight million more litres of pure alcohol were consumed in Scotland in 2007.

Shaap, an independent medical advocacy group, said basing the research on sales figures gave a more accurate picture than other surveys because people often under-report how much they drink.

The most effective and efficient means of reducing the demand for alcohol are to regulate price and availability

Dr Bruce Ritson

For most types of drinks, the amounts purchased were similar across Britain.

However, there was a notable difference in the level of spirits bought in Scotland - an average figure of 3.5 litres per person, compared to 1.8 litres in England and Wales.

Spirits made up around 29% of all alcohol sold in Scotland last year, but constituted less than a fifth of alcohol bought in England and Wales.

Shaap said the survey helped explain why the number of deaths linked to alcohol was higher in Scotland.

Scottish Government proposals to tackle Scotland's "booze culture" are currently being debated at Holyrood.

They include raising the off-licence alcohol purchase age from 18 to 21, a minimum pricing structure for alcohol and a crackdown on drinks promotions.

Type of drink Scotland England & Wales
Spirits 3.5 1.8
RTDs 0.1 0.1
Fortified Wine 0.3 0.2
Cider 0.6 0.6
Perry 0.1 0.1
Light Wines 3.0 2.8
Beers 4.4 4.4
Total 11.8 9.9
Source: Neilson

Dr Bruce Ritson, chairman of Shaap, said the figures underlined the need for urgent action and declared the organisation's support for Scottish ministers' plans.

He said: "What these figures reinforce is the need to act now to reduce overall alcohol consumption in Scotland.

"The most effective and efficient means of reducing the demand for alcohol are to regulate price and availability."

He added: "Over the past few decades we have seen a progressive liberalisation of the alcohol market in the UK, with the result that alcohol is now available in more places, for longer periods, and at more affordable prices.

"Unfortunately, in that time we have also seen a rise in consumption and an escalation of alcohol-related damage."

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