Glasgow Labour MSP Anne McTaggart has spoken of the need for a cultural shift in Scotland’s attitude towards alcohol.
Ms McTaggart was speaking during a debate at the Scottish Parliament on 4th June.
Alcohol consumption in Scotland has reduced since 2009, but alcohol sales remain higher than in 1994. Scotland’s consumption of alcohol was twice the world average in 2010 and well above the European regional average. Alcohol-related hospital admissions in Scotland are four times higher than they were in the early 1980s. That is on average 700 hospital admissions as well as 20 deaths that are directly related to alcohol each week.
During her speech, Ms McTaggart spoke of her dismay at these statistics and highlighted the fact that alcohol today is affordable, available and heavily marketed. She stressed the need to combat Scotland’s pro-alcohol society where drinking is seen as the norm by denormalising alcohol for children and teenagers.
While acknowledging positive data from the Scottish schools adolescent lifestyle and substance use survey, which reports a substantial reduction in alcohol consumption among young people since 2010, Ms McTaggart insisted that tougher measures and more education for young people is needed. She also argued that the advertising of alcoholic drinks should be restricted, especially near places that children use, such as schools, as well as at events targeted at children.
Speaking in the debate Ms McTaggart said:
“Alcohol misuse and its consequence for health and community safety remain a significant challenge, not only in Scotland but throughout the UK.
“Our drinking habits have to change, because if we condone that behaviour and do not make substantial attempts to change it, we will be left with a chronically ill young adult population. The earlier teenagers are exposed to alcohol, the more likely they are to face challenges in later years. Therefore, we must address the problem at its root, and provide more support and education in schools on the harmful side effects of alcohol consumption.
“Alcohol consumption cannot go on at the current rate. The strain that alcohol puts on public services is costly and time consuming. If we could work together to safeguard our population from alcohol, we would have fewer alcohol-related challenges. Members from across all political parties are determined to tackle Scotland’s drink problem. However, in order to be successful, a shift in Scotland’s culture is essential. We must contribute to delivering that change right away.”