Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Minutes of Evidence




  Most people in Scotland consume alcohol, if only occasionally. Moreover, the majority of drinkers generally consume moderate and harmless quantities of alcohol. The 1998 General Household Survey (GHS) showed that 75 per cent of British men and 59 per cent of women had consumed alcohol in the past week. Adults in Scotland are rather more likely than those south of the border to concentrate their drinking. Men in Scotland were more likely than those in England to have consumed eight units of alcohol on at least one session in the past week (24 per cent compared with 20 per cent). Women in Scotland were more likely than their English counterparts to have consumed three units in any one day (27 per cent compared with 20 per cent). The 1998 Scottish Health Survey (SHS) showed that 33 per cent of adult males were exceeding 21 units per week and 15 per cent of women were exceeding 14 units per week. These are generally accepted by healthcare professionals and researchers as being the upper boundaries of "low risk" drinking.

  Several surveys have also shown that Scottish teenagers were more likely that those in England to concentrate their alcohol consumption into fewer, but rather heavier, sessions. Research in the Western Isles has also shown that the drinking habits of adolescents and teenagers in that locality were remarkably polarised. A fifth had never consumed alcohol, while a third were periodically drinking heavily. The 1995 and 1999 European School Survey Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD) showed that UK students aged 15 and 16 years were amongst those in Europe most likely to report high levels of periodic heavy drinking and intoxication. UK teenagers were those most likely to have begun daily cigarette smoking by the age of 13 (20 per cent) and to have used illicit drugs (36 per cent). Scottish teenagers had the highest level of illicit drug experience (41 per cent had used cannabis and 16 per cent had used other drugs) in the UK.

  Most of Scotland's alcohol-related problems are attributable to the fact that, as in several other countries (including Ireland and Scandinavia), a substantial proportion of the nation's drinking has traditionally occurred on Friday and Saturday evening. Heavy session intake is associated with a wide range of acute problems, such as accidents, injuries, crimes and public nuisance. At the same time, more people are also spreading their drinking throughout the week. The 1998 GHS showed that among British non-manual workers, 8 per cent of women and 17 per cent of men had drunk on five or more days. Among professionals the corresponding proportions were 6 per cent and 22 per cent. It is emphasised that the pattern of drinking strongly influences the pattern of the adverse consequences of drinking.


  Officially recorded alcohol problems reflect not only the level of problems, but the limitations and policies of agencies attempting to record such information. Such official data are inevitably a partial, imperfect, representation of the real picture.

Liver Disease Deaths

  These have risen dramatically between 1996 and 1999, by 29 per cent in women and 35 per cent in men.

Alcohol Dependence Syndrome

  Deaths from this cause rose by 35 per cent among women and by 82 per cent in men between 1996 and 1999.

  It is conservatively calculated that the number of deaths from alcohol-related diseases has risen from 430 in 1990 to 1,013 (302 women and 711 men) in 1999 (Scottish Council on Alcohol 2001).

Alcohol-Related Admissions to Psychiatric and other Hospitals

  There were 820 alcohol-related admissions to psychiatric hospitals and 22,078 admissions to non-psychiatric hospitals in Scotland in 1999 (a total of 22,898). Note: These figures only relate to alcohol dependence, alcohol non-dependence and alcoholic psychosis. They do not include alcohol-related accident/injury victims, members of Alcoholics Anonymous or clients of councils on alcohol.

Drinking and Driving

  1970: 8,333 males, 80 females (total 8,413).

  1994: 5,989 males, 443 females (total 6,432).

Drunkenness Offences

  1964: 10,778 males, 956 females (total 11,734).

  1998: 661 males, 64 females (total 725).

  (BLRA 2000).

Breach of the Peace

  1983: 31,787.

  1994: 16,631.

  Note:   In the UK as a whole there are 120,000 tobacco-related deaths, at least 33,000 alcohol-related deaths and 1,200 deaths associated with illicit drugs each year.

Dr Martin Plant
Director, Alcohol and Health Research Centre, City Hospital, Edinburgh

February 2001

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 4 April 2001