THE number of alcohol-related deaths in Inverkeithing, Rosyth, Saline and Gowkhall are much higher than the average figures for the Kingdom. 

Stats linking the availability of booze with the number of hospital admissions, anti-social behaviour and deaths were presented to the South and West Fife area committee last week. 

Data collected between 2014-16 in Rosyth said there were 32.3 deaths per 100,000 of the population, compared to the Fife average of 17.2. For Inverkeithing it was 26.7, while Saline and Gowkhall was 22.6.

Councillor Alice McGarry, convener of the committee, said: “It’s important that these figures are gathered, as Fife Council and its partners are working towards improving health and reducing inequalities in its population.

“Increasing price, reducing availability and controlling the market are seen to be the most effective ways to reduce alcohol-related harm. 

"We’ve been looking at the number of premises licensed to sell alcohol in the area and comparing it to the impact this has on the incidences of alcohol abuse."

Members were asked to work with the Fife Licensing Board and explore ways of limiting the number of off-sales premises selling alcohol. 

However, the majority of councillors voiced their reservations, concerned with how a blanket approach may affect regeneration plans and harm shops in small villages.

Many wanted to give the unit pricing measures that have been implemented by the Scottish Government a chance before further policy was made. 

The report showed that South West Fife as a whole had a lower than average amount of licensed premises that sell alcohol, such as bars, hotels and supermarkets, but a third of the area had higher than average rates of off-sale premises. 

As of April 2017, there were 120 premises selling alcohol – of these 41 were off-sales. The South West Fife area as a whole had a lower than average rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions and deaths but there are spikes with some towns and villages experiencing high levels of alcohol-related harm. 

South West Fife had the lowest rate of incidents in the Kingdom in terms of alcohol-related anti-social behaviour, with 71 cases recorded in 2016/17. Alcohol-related harm was estimated to cost Fife £130 million a year. 

Councillor Tony Orton said: “I find it difficult to understand how the availability of alcohol can be controlled when people could just travel somewhere to get it. 

“The way we drink has changed and the custom now is to drink at home – so I do not see the restriction working. However, I do see the unit pricing increase working effectively.”

Councillor Mino Manekshaw added: “Should we not let the new unit pricing measure take place before we make further changes?

"I think we need time to let that settle first and see the impact that is making. For many small village shops, alcohol licences make them viable. 

“They may decide to go elsewhere, and these shops have been particularly helpful to people in this recent severe weather.”
Councillor David Barratt said: “I’m particularly concerned about how this could affect regeneration if companies weren’t able to get a licence. For example, the Aldi in Dalgety Bay.”