THE rate of death from alcohol in Scotland is the highest in the UK, new figures show.

A study released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed 21.5 deaths per 100,000 of the population were caused by alcohol in 2020.

The figure was an increase from 18.6 the year before.

Scotland’s rate is well above that of the whole of the UK, which sits at 14 per 100,000, according to the release.

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Northern Ireland moves from the highest rate to the second highest, rising from 18.8 to 19.6.

Wales recorded 13.9 deaths per 100,000, while England reported a rate of 13.

Despite boasting the lowest rates in the UK, England and Wales saw the biggest percentage increases – 19.3% and 17.8% respectively.

The highest jump in the Scottish figures was seen in men, rising from 25.2 per 100,000 to 31.3, while the equivalent rate for women rose by just 0.1 to 12.7.

Elinor Jayne, director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (Shaap), called for an increase to the minimum unit price of alcohol.

“The harm caused by alcohol in Scotland is once again highlighted by new data showing that, of the four nations of the UK, we have the highest alcohol-specific death rate, with a significant increase in deaths in 2020,” she said.

“For every person who has died, there are many, many left behind who will be dealing with the suffering caused by alcohol, both while their loved one was alive and now that they are dead.

“And for every person who has died, there are many, many more in Scotland who have an alcohol problem which is affecting their daily lives, relationships and health.

“We should not accept that somehow alcohol harm is acceptable in Scotland.

“We need more to be done to prevent problems from developing, such as increasing the level of minimum unit pricing from 50p to 65p and restricting marketing of alcohol.

“On top of that, we must now see a real focus on the services and treatment that people with alcohol problems in Scotland should be able to access, with a view to increasing capacity and making it much easier for people with alcohol problems to gain the support and treatment they need to reduce consumption or stop drinking altogether.”

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, also called for an increase to 65p per unit.

She said: “Once again Scotland has experienced more deaths from alcohol than the rest of the UK.

"Following an encouraging reduction in 2019, the sudden increase in 2020 is devastating to see and a tragedy for everyone affected.

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"It is a stark reminder that we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball where alcohol harm is concerned.

“Scotland has made good progress in addressing the problems we have with alcohol by introducing policies like minimum unit pricing which is showing promising results.

"Yet the impact of the pandemic threatens to undermine this progress.

"The Scottish Government must raise the minimum unit price of alcohol to 65p per unit as soon as possible to save more lives.”