The rate of deaths due to alcohol misuse in Scotland rose slightly and remained the highest in Britain last year, according to new figures.

North of the border there were 20.8 "alcohol-specific" deaths per 100,000 people, above Wales and England where there were 13.1 and 10.7 deaths respectively.

Despite Scotland's higher rate of such deaths, the Office for National Statistics said it remains the only one of the countries to show "statistically significant improvement" compared with 2001 rates.

In Scotland, the number of males dying has dropped by 25% over that period, from 39.0 deaths per 100,000 in 2001 to 29.4 last year.

The female alcohol-specific death rate has also dropped, falling 10% from 14.5 in 2001 to 13.1 in 2018.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: "Scotland continues to suffer significantly higher alcohol-related harm, with considerably more alcohol-specific deaths in Scotland compared to England and Wales.

"Each death represents a life cut tragically short and many more scarred by loss.

"Every alcohol-related death is preventable and we should not be seeing these high numbers."

She added: "Data published earlier this year showed that consumption in Scotland reduced by 3% in 2018.

"This gives us cause for optimism that minimum unit pricing appears to be having an effect on how much we are drinking and this should translate into improvements in health and well-being and fewer deaths.

"However, we have a long way to go to turn the tide of alcohol harm in Scotland and we need to use all the tools at our disposal.

"This should include taking action to control the availability of alcohol and to restrict alcohol marketing, as well as considering increasing the minimum price to ensure that it delivers the intended benefits."

Alcohol-specific deaths are defined as those resulting from health conditions that are a direct consequence of alcohol misuse, such as alcoholic liver disease.

There were 1136 deaths registered in Scotland in 2018 related to alcohol-specific causes – 762 male and 374 female.

This was a slight overall increase from 2017 when there were 1120 deaths – 789 male and 331 female – at a rate of 20.5 per 100,000 people.

Figures for Northern Ireland will be published later this year.

The statistics are calculated using age-standardised rates that make allowances for the differences in the age structure of a population, over time and between genders.

Last year, 7551 deaths related to alcohol-specific causes were registered in the UK, lower than the previous year's 7697 deaths but still the second-highest since 2001.

The average alcohol-specific death rate in the UK in 2018 was 11.9 deaths per 100,000 people, which was stable with no significant change since the previous year.