Page last updated at 02:16 GMT, Sunday, 17 January 2010

Scots 'drink 46 bottles of vodka'

Women with wine
The Scottish government wants a minimum pricing scheme for alcohol

Adults in Scotland are drinking the equivalent of 46 bottles of vodka each in a year, a study has suggested.

The research was based on industry sales data analysed by NHS Health Scotland.

It said sales for the year to September 2009 averaged 12.2 litres of pure alcohol per person over the age of 18.

The Scottish government said the figure, which had remained static since 2005, was the equivalent of 537 pints or 130 bottles of wine per person.

The new figures come as the Scottish government pushes for a minimum price for alcohol to tackle the country's drink-related problems.

Minimum pricing

In total, 50.5 million litres of pure alcohol were sold in Scotland last year, enough for every drinker over the age of 18 to exceed the weekly consumption guidelines.

People in Scotland drank 25% more alcohol per head of population than individuals in England and Wales, the figures suggested.

In England and Wales, the total for the same period was 9.7 litres per person.

Average weekly sales for Scottish drinkers were 26.5 units per person over the age of 18, equivalent to about 11 pints of beer or three bottles of wine.

In England and Wales, the figure was 21.8, slightly higher than the recommended weekly maximum for a man.

We need to consider radical measures to reduce the level of problem drinking but minimum unit pricing is not the answer
Jackie Baillie
Scottish Labour

Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said it was time for critics of minimum pricing to "wake up" to the scale of Scotland's drink problem.

She added: "All the evidence tells us that the big rise in Scottish alcohol consumption in recent decades is closely linked with the 70% drop in alcohol's relative cost.

"As a consequence, our country now faces an unprecedented burden from alcohol-related health problems, crime and lost economic productivity, which runs into billions and which we are all paying for.

"Currently there is nothing to stop supermarkets selling alcohol more cheaply than bottled water and that's why it's possible to exceed the weekly drinking guidelines for a man for less than £3.50."

Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie MSP said: "I believe that alcohol abuse is the most important public health issue we face in Scotland today.

"We need to consider radical measures to reduce the level of problem drinking but minimum unit pricing is not the answer.

"The truth is that Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon are promoting a scheme that will increase the profits of the supermarkets, but won't provide a single penny for more police officers or alcohol treatment.

"The challenge now is for us to come up with something better. That is why we have created a commission under the chairmanship of Professor Sally Brown to consider ways of restricting cheap booze and tackling alcohol abuse."

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