On Wednesday 23rd September 2020, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) held an online launch event for the publication of our new Rural Matters report. The event had around 90 people participating, and we were delighted to welcome Nick Smith (Alcohol and Drug National Support Manager, Scottish Government), Katie Spence (Orkney ADP Coordinator) and Becky Wood (Recovery Development Worker, Forth Valley) to give remarks prior to the presentation of the report by Jackie MacDiarmid (SHAAP).

The Rural Matters report presents findings on the cultural and social context of drinking in rural areas and barriers to accessing services in rural Scotland, from a qualitative research study undertaken from 2019-2020. It draws on evidence from a literature review, as well as five community consultations and 25 semi-structured interviews conducted with healthcare and service providers, individuals with lived experience of alcohol harm, young people and family members of people with alcohol problems, living and working in remote and rural Scotland. Based on this evidence the report makes clear recommendations for research, policy and practice.

Key recommendations from the report include:

  • Ensuring that the stated intention of the 2020 National Transport Strategy, "Minimising the connectivity and cost disadvantages faced by island communities and those in remote and rural areas" is prioritised, addressing the barrier of inaccessibility described by participants (Transport Scotland, 2020).
  • Ensuring that Scotland's 2017 R100 strategy to deliver superfast broadband to all homes and businesses including in remote and rural areas is prioritised.
  • Resourcing services to conduct assertive outreach, recognising that this may be challenging in some areas due to distances and stigma. This includes proactively taking care to patients, following up with patients who drop out of services and removing punitive measures such as witholding services if a patient misses appointments.
  • Ensuring adequate provision of training, education and networking opportunities for service providers and healthcare professionals on trauma-informed approaches, avoiding stigma, support for people with alcohol problems and their families, and information on available services and support.
  • Actively encouraging support for and investment in social spaces that do not provide or market alcohol. These spaces could include sports clubs, community centres/hubs, cafes, leisure centres, etc.
  • In reviewing licensing regulations, ensure that the particular needs of rurality are addressed, including the consideration of how online and telephone purchasing should be regulated.
  • Ensuring that funding is allocated to visible recovery groups in order to increase the varieties of activites and events they may offer.