‘Alcohol is damaging the health and safety of people in Tayside’

Kathryn Baker service manager at Tayside Council on Alcohol

Harmful drinking is costing Tayside’s public services £146 million each year, according to a new report.

Figures from charity Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) calculated the figure based on the effect alcohol abuse has on health services, social care, crime and productive capacity in the region.

The total annual cost of alcohol harm to Dundee was put at £71 million, or £492 per person, while Perth and Kinross and Angus were calculated to be worse off to the tune of £42m and £33.5m, respectively.

Kathryn Baker, service manager at the Tayside Council on Alcohol (TCA), said: “These figures show we should think about how many days are lost to people feeling ill after a night drinking and not going to work.

“People also need to think about the impact alcohol abuse has on families — £146 million is a big sum of money.”

Ms Baker added that schemes such as the Safe Zone Bus — which is run by TCA and provides a “safe haven” for revellers — can save money otherwise spent by emergency services.

Picture posed for by actor
Picture posed for by actor

She said: “We recognise there are people enjoying the nightlife economy that might just need the safe bus, rather than being taken to A&E by police. A lot of the time, people just need someone to keep them safe.”

In addition, AFS said there were more than 1,800 alcohol-related hospital stays and 100 alcohol-related deaths in the region last year.

Half of the alcohol-related stays, as well as half of the deaths, were in Dundee.

The charity said there were 100 child protection cases in Tayside where parental alcohol or drug misuse was involved, of which 45 were in the Dundee area.

The city also has the fourth highest availability of alcohol outlets in all of Scotland, according to the report.

Ken Lynn, the city council’s health and social care convener, said the impact of alcohol was often overlooked as it was not subjected to the same scrutiny as other drugs.

He said: “People focus on the impact caused by drugs such as opiates but there is a disparity in terms of how people speak about alcohol. It can have a major effect on people’s health and their families.”

He said he was “not surprised” to see Dundee account for a large proportion of the perceived annual cost, adding: “There’s a strong link between living in a deprived area and having a drug or alcohol problem — but I’d like to think we’re moving in the right direction.”

Alison Douglas, chief executive of AFS, said action had to be taken by the Scottish Government to reduce alcohol’s availability and its prevalence of marketing, adding: “Alcohol is damaging the health, wealth and safety of people and communities right across Tayside.

“It’s important that people who are drinking too much can access effective support services, but we must do more to prevent problems developing in the first place.

“As well as introducing minimum unit pricing, which will increase the price of the cheapest, strongest drinks which fuel harmful drinking, we also need bold action from the Scottish Government to reduce the availability and marketing of alcohol.”