Fife town’s shocking alcohol related deaths and injuries

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Concerns have been raised over the number of off licences in Cowdenbeath after figures revealed alcohol related hospital visits had increase 40 per cent since 2012.

The issue was flagged up as councillors considered an application from Aldi to increase the space it has to sell drink.

It ran into opposition from NHS Fife who argued the town already had ten off-sales – and any additional space for alcohol would leave to more health problems.

Paul Madill, public health consultant, spoke to the objection at Fife Licensing Board.

Mr Madill said: “Cowdenbeath has higher instances of both alcohol related injuries and deaths than not just Fife, but the Scottish national average.

“Since 2016, 91 people have died from alcohol specific deaths in that area – an increase of 26 per cent.”
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He added: “More than 70 per cent of alcohol sold in Scotland comes from off sales and there are 10 shops within 800m, which is double the Fife average.

“There is a clear association between the availability of alcohol and harm in the lowest income group.

“Given the sharp increase in the number of deaths in the recent years, the 40 per cent increase in alcohol related injuries in this one specific location of Fife, we ask to refuse this application on the basis it will increase the alcohol related harm.”

A representative for Aldi told the board that the store was planning a small increase from 30.1sqm to 31.5sqm as a redesign which would move drinks from a side wall to the back,increasing the space slightly.

The solicitor added: “Alcohol displays still only make up a very small part of the shop – just three per cent.”

Mr Madill noted that the “small” increase actually represented a 27 per cent growth in alcohol display within the store.

Councillor Ryan Smart said: “What the NHS is doing is commendable. As a society we should be decreasing our alcohol intake.

“However, we as a council decided that we weren’t going to have an over-provision policy due to being unable to regulate online sales.”

Mr Madill said: “There is no evidence that online sales of alcohol contributes to harm. Less than ten per cent of alcohol sales is being sold online.

“The real harm is coming from off sales being bought in communities like this one. I accept there is no over-provision policy but I do think it’s quite clear that alcohol is particularly high in this area and an increase in availability will increase the harm.

“This application, if passed, will lead to an increase in bad health, higher than the rest of the Fife average.”

All board members agreed to grant the licence.