Steerpike Steerpike

Scotland’s alcohol deaths reach highest level since 2008

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon with current drugs and alcohol policy minister Elena Whitham. Credit: Jane Barlow/PA Archive/PA Images

Oh dear. The latest figures for Scotland’s alcohol-related deaths are out and it’s not good news. Deaths registered in 2022 have risen by 2 per cent from 2021 to total 1,276 mortalities overall. Strikingly, Mr S notes that the rise in deaths is attributable to women, with 440 deaths tragically recorded last year. With alcohol-related deaths at the highest levels since 2008, these figures are a damning indictment of the SNP’s self-proclaimed ‘world-leading’ minimum unit pricing policy.

‘We will need to better understand the reasons for this increase in deaths,’ said drugs and alcohol policy minister Elena Whitham. You can say that again – though perhaps leading on transparency would be a start. The Scottish government has, after all, been forced to slim down its claims that minimum unit pricing (MUP) in Scotland has directly saved lives after releasing a rather, er, optimistic press release.

It transpires that Scottish civil servants have been caught red-handed tampering retrospectively with a government statement on alcohol policy report findings. Government officials made a number of changes to the publication, including swapping out the phrase that stated ‘this research demonstrates our world-leading policy is saving lives’ for a rather dull variant: ‘our world-leading policy is estimated to have saved lives’. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?

Another paragraph asserted that ‘wide-ranging evidence drawing on 40 independent research publications showed that MUP has been effective in its main goal of reducing alcohol harm with the reduction in deaths…specific to the timing of MUP implementation’. In fact, only one study made a direct link between the reduction in deaths and government policy. The rest – the 39 other reports – were either inconclusive or unrelated to alcohol deaths. In a somewhat embarrassing move, government officials have had to redact their initial claim.

First Minister Humza Yousaf previously insisted that the minimum unit pricing policy was ‘quite literally saving lives’.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles


Written by

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to or message @MrSteerpike

Topics in this article


Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in