EXPERTS have worked out “alcohol-related harm” at £365m a year, £615 for every man woman and child in Glasgow and nearly enough to pay for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
That is more, per capita, than in any other Scottish city – and a devastating blow to the city’s health and economy.
The numbers were calculated by analysts from pressure groups Alcohol Focus Scotland and the Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (Shaap).
They believe the sheer scale of the problem means licensing boards such as Glasgow’s must now move to cut the availability of alcohol sold at supermarkets and off-licences.
Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “It is clear alcohol is costing us all too much.
“Scotland is unique in having a licensing system that requires licensing boards to consider the protection and improvement of public health when taking decisions about licensing.
“But we need to make sure that this principle is put into practice.
“With the majority of alcohol sold in Scotland bought from supermarkets, and most people drinking at home, we need to shift the focus of licensing away from individual on-sales premises to managing the overall availability of alcohol.”
The Scottish Government has already introduced legislation that will eventually bring a minimum price for booze – a policy supported by the doctors of Alcohol Focus Scotland and Shaap.
But the groups believe it is simply too easy to buy drink – from too many outlets – and that licensing boards have it in their power to change this.
Dr Gillan added: “We hope these figures will assist Glasgow Licensing Board in its work to regulate licensing in order to reduce both the harm caused by alcohol and the cost to the public purse.”
Her colleague Peter Rice, who chairs the doctors-based Shaap, said: “Our members working in the frontline of the health services know only too well how important prevention is.
“Effective regulation, particularly in the off-sales sector, is essential to reduce alcohol-related illness in Scotland.”
The two groups calculated the numbers for 2010-11 using the same methods as the Scottish Government did two years ago when it derived a national Scottish figure for booze harm in 2007 at £3.6billion.
The Glasgow total – £364.79mto be exact – includes £40.17m for health care of people with alcohol problems and another £56.06m for their social care.
But that comes on top of a huge £152.12m for the cost of crime caused by drink and another £116.43m in lost of productive capacity.
That last figure measures all the hours of productive work in the private and public sector lost because people were drunk, or could not work because of health or other problems caused by drink.
Today’s figures do not include the wider social costs of drink, which can be harder to calculate. But, including these costs, the overall economic impact of alcohol abuse could would top £1000 a head in Glasgow.
Nobody has ever worked out the booze economic toll for individual council areas before.
Alcohol Focus and Shaap calculated figures of £492 per head in Dundee, £455 in Edinburgh, £557 in Aberdeen, £424 in Renfrewshire, £358 in North Lanarkshire.
Glasgow’s licensing board has acknowledged it has problems with what it calls “overprovision” of licences.
In other words, it accepts there are parts of the city where there are just two many places selling drink.
The city has fewer licensed premises per citizen than average in Scotland – council areas in the Highlands and Islands have the most boozers per capita.
However,There are 1739 premises in Glasgow licensed to sell alcohol in one way or another, second only to Edinburgh.
The city’s board has turned down dozens of applications for off-sales licences over the last year or so.
A licensing board spokesman for the board said: “The licensing board must operate within the legislation as it currently stands.
“Decisions must be made on the individual merits of a specific application and the full range of information put before the board when an application is heard.
“Health boards have the legal right to be consulted on licensing applications and so they are maybe best placed to pass comment on the potential health impact of a specific application while it is being considered by the board.
“Anyone, including Alcohol Focus Scotland, can also make a representation to the board on a specific application if they wish.
“The board’s policy allows for an application to be refused because of over provision in particular areas and identifies seven key areas in Glasgow where there is a presumption against licences being awarded.”
Last year an entire council, West Dunbartonshire, said it had reached “saturation point” with just too many off-licences.
Furious trade groups said the council’s announcement – and reluctance to grant new licences – amounted to a trade ban.
Solicitors were said to be advising clients they would be unlikely to get a licence in the area at all.
Edinburgh, meanwhile, is now facing legal challenges over its over provision concerns.
Sainsbury’s, for example, was refused an off-licence for a convenience store in Edinburgh city centre of Edinburgh and has lodged an appeal at the Court Of Session.
The Wine And Spirit Trade Association, which represents alcohol retailers, does not accept a link between the number of off-licences and the kind of health and economic effects revealed today by Shaap and Alcohol Focus Scotland.
The Scottish area that has with the fewest licensees per capita, East Renfrewshire, had the lowest level of harm to its economy from alcohol, Shaap and Alcohol Focus found the groups found.
With the majority of alcohol sold in Scotland bought from supermarkets, and most people drinking at home, we need to shift the focus of licensing away from individual sales premises to managing the overall availability of alcohol
By DAVID LEASK