Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) has launched our Manifesto for the 2021 Scottish Parliament election. This calls on all parties and candidates to recognise that alcohol-related harm has implications for multiple other areas of physical and mental health, and to commit to policies that will help tackle Scotland's alcohol problem.

In 2019, 1020 people in Scotland died from a cause wholly attributable to alcohol. This is 1020 too many, and a number that does not include deaths where alcohol has contributed, such as suicide, road accidents and a wide range of diseases. In 2015 alone, it was estimated that 3,705 deaths were attributable to alcohol, with more than one in four of those (28%) due to cancer. These statistics, while stark, do not begin to capture the devastating impact that alcohol can have on individuals, families and communities.

Reducing alcohol-related harm in Scotland requires maintaining focus on alcohol as a priority, as well as understanding the significance of alcohol to other areas of health and social policy. SHAAP recognises that we currently face unprecedented challenges to public health in Scotland, and immense preasures on public finances. However, as we approach the Scottish Parliament election of 2021, it is more important than ever that we do not lose sight of long-term public health measures that can improve the health and wellbeing of everyone in Scotland, build the resilience of our NHS and local care services, and benefit the economy. At last estimate, problematic use of alcohol cost the Scottish economy £3.56 billion. Now is the time for bold action on alcohol problems if we are to achieve our long-term health goals and created a fairer Scotland for the future.

In our mainfesto, we identify four focus areas in which we need to push harder and go further to do this. These include: investing in and improving alcohol treatment and support services, supporting recovery and reducing health inequalities, and protecting children and young people.

Within our four focus areas we identify key policies that need to be implemented immediately to reduce alcohol-related harm. For those policies that have not already been considered for adoption by the Scottish Government, a serious conversation about doing so needs to begin now. Our key calls include recommendations to:

  • enforce total restrictions on alcohol advertising, sponsorship and promotion;
  • strengthen restrictions on alcohol's availability, particularly in the off-trade;
  • promote equity of access to alcohol treatment and recovery services;
  • introduce a minimum income for healthy living;
  • undertake a comprehensive review of and increase investment in alcohol treatment and support services, and
  • include the development of knowledge and skills regarding alcohol as an integral part of health and social care staff learning and development.