ALCOHOL-RELATED deaths in the Lothians have risen by 15 per cent in a year, higher than the national average.
New figures from the National Records of Scotland show there were 150 deaths in 2016 in the region compared with 130 in 2015.
This statistic does not include deaths where alcohol may have played some part such as accidents and suicides.
There were 1265 deaths in the whole of Scotland in 2016 up 115 from 1150 in 2015 – a 10 per cent increase.
The rise in deaths has prompted fresh calls for a “bold” alcohol strategy and support for minimum unit pricing. The pricing policy is currently being challenged in the courts, with the Supreme Court in London assessing the Scottish Whisky Association’s latest appeal.
Alison Douglas, Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “It is tragic that 1265 men and women in Scotland died because of alcohol last year. In Lothian alone there were 150 alcohol-related deaths; a 15 per cent increase on the previous year. Behind these appalling statistics are real people – sons, daughters, husbands, wives, parents, friends and colleagues – who have died too young because of a substance that’s cheap, widely available and constantly promoted.
“Alcohol-related deaths are preventable.
“Increasing the price of the cheapest, strongest drinks through minimum unit pricing will reduce consumption and save hundreds of people’s lives, particularly those living in our poorest communities.” Nationwide the figures are at their highest since 2010, when 1318 alcohol-related deaths were recorded, and is the third largest annual increase behind an 18 per cent surge in 1996 and an 11 per cent rise in 1999. The Lothian number represents the highest total since 2013 when 152 people died.
Dr Peter Bennie, chair of the British Medical Association Scotland, said: “These latest figures showing a worrying increase in alcohol-related deaths last year make clear the scale of the damage caused by Scotland’s relationship with alcohol.
“It underlines why as a country we need to redouble our efforts to tackle the harms caused by alcohol misuse, and why we need the Scottish Government’s coming alcohol strategy refresh to include the kind of wide-ranging measures the BMA and other alcohol campaigners recently called for, including action on marketing and availability.”
Shadow Health Secretary, Miles Briggs, urged that money now be spent on support services to help people with alcohol problems in the Lothians.
He said: “It’s vital that we see investment in Lothian Drug & Alcohol support services – it’s clear many services need to be expanded and that alcohol addiction is effecting different age groups.
“It’s clear we need investment in alcohol and drug partnerships – I believe it is time to review services across Lothian.”