Have you got the bottle?


Alcohol is a key factor in violence, being an underlying factor in half of all murders. But how do we tackle such a long standing problem? VRU co-director Karyn McCluskey on the need for a call to arms – and radical thinking.

Alcohol and violence are crippling our country. Alcohol is a factor in almost half of all murders in Scotland, 72% of domestic abuse incidents and 76% of assaults. It is responsible for 40% of admissions to A&E. In 2007, it was estimated alcohol misuse costs Scotland £3.56bn a year - £900 for every adult. And yet we are in thrall to it.

First things first. Alcohol does not make people violent. What it does is lower our inhibitions, make us take risks, do the kind of things we wouldn’t dream of doing sober, like walk down an unlit alleyway or go home with someone we barely know. In three out of five incidents of violent crime, victims believed their attacker to be under the influence of alcohol. And in almost a third of incidents of violent crime, victims were under the influence of alcohol themselves. Yet we see drunkenness as something to celebrate, to be proud of. A national pastime, something at which we can take on all-comers and win. But the image of the benign, drunken Scotsman is fallacy, a myth that we have used to justify our behaviour. It is time for a change.

During seven years of research and work by the VRU in preventing violence, alcohol has consistently proven to be one of the most difficult issues to tackle, as well as one of the most harmful. Whilst there has been a great deal of attention and effort expounded in addressing issues such as weapons carrying, gangs and domestic violence, addressing alcohol and our problems with it seems to be something that, as a nation, we can often seem reluctant to do.

There is nothing wrong with having a drink. It is simply a question of knowing when enough is enough. But there are some of us who are unable – or unwilling - to judge when enough is enough.

We need to take risks, because we have reached a tipping point in Scotland. It’s time to stand up and say “Our name is Scotland and we have a drink problem.” Are you brave enough?

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