Skip to main content

11/06/14 10:00

Concerns over harmful drinking revealed in nationwide survey

Support for minimum pricing among Scots

New research that examines Scotland’s attitudes towards alcohol has shown more people are in favour of introducing minimum unit pricing as a tool to reduce problem drinking, than against.

Around 1,500 people were surveyed on their attitudes to alcohol as part of the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2013.

84 per cent of people agreed that alcohol caused either ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot of harm’ in Scotland, with 93 per cent of people stating that harmful drinking is a ‘very serious’ or ‘quite serious’ problem.

The results from the survey go on to show that 60 per cent of adults in Scotland thought alcohol was the drug causing the most problems in Scotland – an increase of 14 per cent from 2004.

When asked about minimum pricing, 41 per cent of people were in favour of the policy with 35 per cent against it. 22 per cent had no strong view either way.

Around half of people thought that supermarkets sell too much alcohol at very cheap prices and 55 to 66 per cent of adults surveyed thought that the suggested minimum prices that could be applied to beer, wine and vodka when minimum unit pricing is implemented were ‘about right’.

Only 12 per cent thought they were ‘too high’.

Health Secretary Alex Neil welcomed the results of the survey and said that they show an increasing need for continuing action to be taken on tackling Scotland’s difficult relationship with alcohol.

He said: “The fact that more than 8 out of 10 people surveyed thought that alcohol causes considerable harm in Scotland shows there is an increasing need to bring in measures that can tackle these issues.

“The evidence shows that introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol would be an effective way to tackle to the availability of high-strength cheap alcohol – the type that causes the most problems in Scotland.

“It’s encouraging that the majority of people who expressed a view also see that minimum unit pricing would be an important tool in rebalancing Scotland’s relationship with alcohol. Half of people think that supermarkets sell alcohol far too cheaply and an even greater number, two thirds, think that, once minimum unit pricing is introduced, alcohol prices will be about right.

“This is a strong indication that the Scottish public support our policy for a minimum unit price, and recognise that we have a significant problem with alcohol that needs urgent action to tackle.”

Further findings from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey show a continued lack of awareness of the number of units in alcoholic drinks, with around half of people being unable to identify the number of units in a pint of beer, measure of spirits or a glass of wine. Only 18 per cent of people could correctly name the number of units in a bottle of wine.

Only one in five people knew that the correct minimum number of alcohol free days per week, as recommended by health experts, was two.

In addition most people disapproved of excessive drinking with only 19 per cent agreeing that getting drunk is a perfectly acceptable thing to do on weekends.

However around a third of people didn’t see binge drinking as a serious problem, even though 93 per cent of people of thought harmful drinking was a serious issue.

Notes to editors

The Scottish Social Attitudes (SSA) Survey is an annual survey of social and political attitudes in Scotland. Run by ScotCen Social Research since 1999, it provides a reliable and robust picture of changing public opinion over time.

Interview with a representative sample of the Scottish population were conducted between June and October 2013, with 1497 interviews carried out.

Questions on alcohol were funded by the Scottish Government and managed by NHS Health Scotland.

The full survey can be accessed here: http://www.healthscotland.com/documents/23453.aspx