A DRAMATIC rise has been reported in the number of adults in the Lothians drinking more than the recommended weekly guidelines.
The 2015 Scottish Health Survey found the region had the highest level of excess alcohol consumption – 30 per cent – in the country.
That’s an increase from 25 per cent said to be drinking over guidelines in 2012.
And today it prompted calls for a tougher line by the Capital’s licensing board in granting new liquor licences.
Green councillor Chas Booth, who sits on the board, said the World Health Organisation had identified three crucial factors influencing people to drink to excess – price, availability and marketing.
He said the Scottish Government was trying to deal with the price issue by introducing minimum unit pricing and licensing boards had a vital role on availability.
Licensing board chairman Eric Milligan has previously insisted there was no link between “overprovision” of licensed premises and alcohol-related harm – pitting him against the NHS and police.
But Councillor Booth said: “There will be a new licensing board after May next year and it will have the opportunity to consult on a new statement of policy.
“I would hope that would contribute to a much stronger approach to tackling the problem of drinking to excess, including identifying areas of the city that are over-provided with alcohol outlets and paying more attention to evidence from people like NHS Lothian and the police when they say we should be turning down some of these applications.”
The figures from the survey showed 19 per cent of women in Lothian and 40 per cent of men were drinking more than the maximum recommended.
Lothian also recorded the highest average number of units of alcohol per week – 13.6 compared to the Scottish average of 12.7.
Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “It is concerning that around a third of people in Lothian are drinking above the low-risk guidelines.
“Regularly drinking more than 14 units per week increases the risk of many illnesses including breast, bowel and oral cancers, liver disease and mental health problems
“We are encouraged to drink to excess by low prices, endless promotions and easy availability. There are nearly 2000 licensed premises in Edinburgh alone – more than anywhere else in the country.
“Taking action on these issues will reduce our consumption and improve our health and wellbeing.”
Lothian MSP and Conservative public health spokesman Miles Briggs described the survey figures as alarming and called for urgent action to address the issue.
“It is worth considering that, with a high student population, that may go some way to explaining why the Lothians has a higher rate.
“The fact the Scottish Government has cut alcohol and drug partnership team funding is also an issue in terms of addressing behaviour and providing support.”