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Alcohol Policy Team

Scottish Government
3EN, St Andrews House
Regent Road


It is becoming increasingly evident that as a nation our relationship with alcohol has become unbalanced.

Alcohol sales data suggests that total consumption has increased by 15% over the last 20 years (1994-2016) with enough alcohol being sold for every adult in Scotland to drink over 20 units each and every week since at least 2000.  This is six units (44%) more than the lower risk guidelines of 14 units a week for men and women.

Since 2009, we have seen a 9% decrease in alcohol consumption per adult but the levels are still high.

Almost a fifth more alcohol is sold per adult in Scotland than in England and Wales.

The impact of this excessive consumption is estimated to cost Scots £3.6 billion each year, that's equivalent to £900 for each and every adult in Scotland.

The rate of hospital stays has quadrupled since the early 1980's; although there has been a 20% reduction since 2007-2008.  The latest figures for 2016/2017 show a 2% increase.  The rate of alcohol-related deaths is 1.5 times higher than in 1980 although there has been a 33% reduction since 2003. The latest figures for 2016 show a 10% increase.

The impact on crime and anti-social behaviour is equally stark, with statistics showing that over 40 per cent of prisoners (including 60 per cent of young offenders) were drunk at the time of their offence.

Alcohol Framework for Action

The Alcohol Framework for Action, published March 2009, set out a strategic approach to tackling alcohol misuse in Scotland:

The Framework contains a wide package of measures contained within four areas:

  • reduced alcohol consumption

  • supporting families and communities

  • positive attitudes, positive choices

  • improved treatment and support

Considerable progress has been made in implementing key aspects of the Framework including:

  • investment in tackling alcohol and drug misuse of £689 million since 2008

  • delivery of over 754,000 alcohol brief interventions by NHS Scotland

  • establishment of 30 Alcohol and Drug Partnerships

  • introduction of the quantity discount ban

  • improved substance misuse education

  • introduction of lower drink-drive limit

NHS Health Scotland was tasked with monitoring and evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) and various reports have been published which can be found at

Their latest report was published in June 2017.

A refresh of the Alcohol Framework will be introduced in early 2018.