Drinkaware Annual Conference

South Scotland MSP Emma Harper last week (Thursday 12 November) delivered a key note speech at the annual Drinkaware Scotland Conference.

The Deputy Convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee, Ms Harper, addressed delegates from across Scotland at the annual virtual conference. A previously planned round-table discussion and parliament networking event, arranged by her office, was also postponed due to coronavirus restrictions on indoor public gatherings.

During the event Ms Harper outlined some of the world-renowned work being driven by the Scottish Government to address issues of alcohol misuse across Scotland in a bid to reduce alcohol harm in the country by a quarter by 2030.

Ms Harper provided delegates with information about the Scottish Government’s investment of nearly £800 million to tackle problem alcohol and drug use (since 2008) and an additional £20 million made available last year to help improve the provision and quality of drug and alcohol services. A minimum price of 50 pence per unit of alcohol was introduced from May 2018 which early research is demonstrating to be an effective approach to reducing unit consumption and therefore harm.

The South Scotland MSP also contributed information on some of the challenges which lockdown and COVID-19 restrictions have posed to alcohol recovery services. Last week Drinkaware’s Monitor 2020 published details of how more than a quarter of adult drinkers – 29% – in Scotland drank more during early lockdown with 50 per cent citing more time and less structure contributing to their higher consumption.

Ms Harper commented;
“I was pleased to be invited to deliver the key note speech at this year’s Drinkaware Annual Scotland Conference which was held online this year.

“As Deputy Convener of the Health and Sport Committee, I have been fully involved in supporting and scrutinising Scottish Government policy as it works with the third sector to tackle head-on the inequalities in our society which can mean vulnerable people suffer most.

“Tackling poverty and inequality, as well as providing good quality accessible mental health support, is paramount to reducing recourse to alcohol and drugs.
It is clear that if people are supported to flourish, they will be much less reliant on substances such as drugs and alcohol. Minimum pricing, for example, has aided work towards a Scotland where less harm is caused by alcohol, where we put in place bold measures to prevent harm, and reach out with the right support for all those who need it.

“The Scottish Government has legislated to ban irresponsible promotions of alcohol products, introduced a lower drink drive limit, and introduced a multi-buy discount ban which has led to a reduction of 2.6% in alcohol consumption. The damage that alcohol misuse causes to our nation is stark, but through policies such as these, there is clear evidence to show that problem alcohol consumption in Scotland is significantly reducing”.

Chief Executive of Drinkaware, Elaine Hindal said;

“I am grateful for the ongoing support from South Scotland MSP, Emma Harper, and delighted she agreed to deliver a key note speech at the annual Drinkaware Scotland conference, which this year ran online with an impressive number of delegates in attendance.

“We have already had positive feedback from delegates who valued Ms Harper’s speech and the opportunity to engage with her on issues of alcohol misuse, and indeed the challenges presented during the last few months of restrictions put in place to keep people safe during the COVID pandemic.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Ms Harper and the Health and Sport Committee to develop ideas, research and resources to support people in Scotland and reduce alcohol harm.”