Scottish alcohol consumption falls to record low

17 June, 2020

Public Health Scotland has revealed that alcohol sales fell to a record low for the second year running in 2019.

Some campaigners have attributed the decline to the introduction of a 50p minimum unit price in May 2018, although consumption levels were already on a downward trajectory before that.

Public Health Scotland said adults bought an average of 9.9 litres of alcohol throughout 2019, equivalent to 19 units per week for each person.

British adults are advised to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week. However, they were previously advised that men could drink up to 21 units and women could drink up to 14 units.

Former chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies made the change in January 2016, and it proved controversial, as anti-alcohol campaigners were later revealed to have sat on the board that approved the changes.

Spaniards are advised that they can drink up to 35 units per week, while in Italy it is 31.5 units, in France it is 26 units and Americans are advised to drink no more than 28 units per week. In Fiji it shoots up to 52 units a week.

Some have therefore argued that the guidelines are arbitrary.

Yet Public Health Scotland is disappointed to see that Scots are drinking 19 units per week on average.

Lucie Giles, public health intelligence principal at Public Health Scotland, said: "The most recent survey data shows that nearly a quarter of adults exceeded the revised low-risk weekly drinking guidelines.

“An average of 22 people per week are still dying as a result of their alcohol consumption and again this is not spread evenly throughout the population.

“Those in the most deprived areas are more likely to be hospitalised or die because of an alcohol-related cause. Like all harm caused by alcohol, this is preventable.”

The average price of alcohol sold in the Scottish off-trade in 2018 was 56p per unit, and that increased to 62p per unit in 2019. In England and wales, the average off-trade unit price rose from 56p in 2018 to 57p last year.

Digital Edition

Drinks International digital edition is available ahead of the printed magazine. Don’t miss out, make sure you subscribe today to access the digital edition and all archived editions of Drinks International as part of your subscription.


La'Mel Clarke

Service isn’t servitude: the skill of hosting

La’Mel Clarke, front of house at London’s Seed Library, looks at the forgotten art of hosting and why it deserves the same respect as bartending.