Page last updated at 11:55 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Alcohol abuse 'costs every Scot 900 a year'

A man lies on a pavement after a night out
The study calculated the cost to social services, the economy, NHS and police

Alcohol misuse could be costing every adult in Scotland £900 every year, according to a new report.

York University economists said the problem may be costing taxpayers between £2.4bn and £4.6bn.

The Scottish government said the research strengthened its argument for minimum alcohol pricing.

Ministers do not have enough support to get the plan through parliament, with opposition parties saying it could be illegal under European competition law.

The research, which looked at the impact of alcohol misuse across society, put a much higher cost on the problem than the £2.25bn figure previously used by the Scottish government.

The time for stalling is over and the need for action is clear
Nicola Sturgeon
Scottish health secretary

Using the report's mid-point estimate of £3.5bn, it calculated the problem was costing the health service £268.8m and social care £230.5m.

Crime-related costs were put at £727.1m, while the impact to the economy stood at £865.7m.

And the human cost caused by suffering through premature death was estimated at £1.46bn.

Challenging her opponents, Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: "The time for stalling is over and the need for action is clear.

"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."

Minimum pricing forms part of a range of measures to tackle Scotland's drink problems, contained in the proposed Alcohol Bill.

Industry 'damage'

But rival Holyrood parties have maintained their opposition to the move.

Labour health spokeswoman, Jackie Baillie, said her party had discounted minimum pricing because is was "untested and possibly illegal", adding: "The challenge now is for us to come up with something better."

Deputy Scottish Tory leader Murdo Fraser said his party backed targeted tax rises on known problem drinks, such as super-strength beer and cider.

"We oppose the SNP's policy of indiscriminate blanket minimum pricing, which is probably illegal, penalises responsible drinkers and will cause immense damage to the Scotch whisky industry," he said.

The Liberal Democrats' Robert Brown, added: "The Scottish government would do far better to bring forward measures to tackle irresponsible promotions and selling below cost price."

The York University report pointed out it was "important to recognise the levels of uncertainty around many of the generated costs" and that figures should only be considered as "indicative".

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