Alcohol abuse costs Edinburgh £221m in policing, health, and social care

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Alcohol abuse is costing the Capital a ‘staggering’ £221 million a year, it has been revealed.

The figures, released today by Alcohol Focus Scotland, were calculated by the impact excess drinking has on the health service, policing and social care.

The results show problem drinking costs £455 per head of Edinburgh’s population a year – and were described as “a cause for concern” by local councillors.

Scotland-wide results will be published this week at Alcohol Focus Scotland’s annual licensing conference.

The charity has said the profiles provide more evidence of the need for licensing boards to restrict the availability of alcohol in their areas.

Chief executive Dr Evelyn Gillan said: “It is clear that alcohol is costing us all too much.

“Scotland is unique in having a licensing system which requires licensing boards to consider the protection and improvement of public health when taking decisions about licensing.

“But we need to make sure that this principle is put into practice.

“With the majority of alcohol sold in Scotland bought from supermarkets, and most people drinking at home, we need to shift the focus of licensing away from individual on-sales premises to managing the overall availability of alcohol.

“We hope these figures will assist Edinburgh Licensing Board in their work to regulate licensing to reduce both the harm caused by alcohol and the cost to the public purse.”

Glasgow had the highest cost per head figure at £615, followed by Aberdeen at £557. In Mid, East and West Lothian, alcohol abuse cost £335, £275 and £349 per head of population respectively. NHS involvement with the licensing board in Edinburgh has seen proposals for new alcohol licences come under scrutiny for the possible health effects.

Licensing board member Joanna Mowatt said: “These figures are quite startling. That we have a problem with alcohol is indisputable, but if someone wants to have a drink, they will find a drink. We need to make sure that the measures we take to combat this problem are the right ones. We need to make sure when we are licensing we are not preventing someone from making a ­living.”

Fellow board member Chas Booth said: “These figures are a real cause for concern. It seems clear that we have not paid enough attention to the problems caused by increasing the availability if alcohol, and I hope that it’s something that we as a Licensing Board will take more seriously in future.”

Dr Peter Rice, chairperson of (SHAAP) Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems said: “SHAAP is very supportive of the role of licensing boards in improving public health. Our members working in the frontline of health services know only too well how important prevention is.”