In response to National Records of Scotland alcohol-specific deaths figures Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group said:

“Today’s figures from National Records of Scotland showing a slight increase in alcohol-specific deaths are a reminder that every death is an absolute tragedy for the people concerned and their family and friends. Concerningly this is the third yearly increase in a row, yet the latest data shows a significant slowing since the post pandemic dramatic increase. We believe this reinforces the pressing need for targeting tailored medical and social support for those drinking at the heaviest and most harmful level as a key step to help reverse this worrying trend.”

Year Number of registered deaths – Persons
2002 1,334
2003 1,354
2004 1,331
2005 1,354
2006 1,417
2007 1,282
2008 1,316
2009 1,180
2010 1,183
2011 1,135
2012 968
2013 1,002
2014 1,036
2015 1,045
2016 1,139
2017 1,120
2018 1,136
2019 1,020
2020 1,190
2021 1,245
2022 1,276

National Records of Scotland figures 

In response to “New Leadership, A Fresh Start for Scotland” speech by First Minister Humza Yousaf, Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group – the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator said:

“We welcome the announcement by First Minister Humza Yousaf and support his comments that ‘the business community itself recognises that unrestricted marketing is incompatible with the well-being of our people’. This is why the Portman Group exists – to ensure that alcohol is marketed responsibly and particularly not to under-18s, and have done so effectively for over 25 years.

“We also support other not-for-profit groups which help ensure underage alcohol consumption continues to fall, as seen in the past decade and more*. These include measures that restrict sales of alcohol so they cannot be made to those under 18 (Challenge 25); youth education schemes (Alcohol Education Trust), and community groups which work with the police and social workers to divert children from drinking (Community Alcohol Partnerships).

“We welcome the call to engage, and hope to work with the Scottish Government to continue to address harmful and underage drinking and actively support and extend the good work of other not-for-profit groups.”

* Scottish Health Survey, November 2022

  • Almost one third (32%) of adults who drink alcohol in Scotland also now semi-regularly drink alcohol alternatives
  • New annual YouGov research commissioned by the Portman Group reveals more than one fifth (22% ) drink less alcohol after having tried low and no alcohol alternatives

New YouGov consumer research reveals that almost one third (32%) of adults who drink alcohol in Scotland now semi-regularly* drink alcohol alternatives, up from 29% the year before.  The research was commissioned by the Portman Group, the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator.

More than one fifth (22%) of Scottish drinkers say their alcohol consumption has reduced since first trying low and no drinks, demonstrating their role in encouraging moderate and responsible drinking. The top reasons cited for drinking low and no alcohol are being able to drive home safely from social events and avoiding short-term health impacts (i.e. hangovers).

With New Year’s Resolutions round the corner, those that plan to reduce alcohol consumption in 2023 said they will drink fewer alcoholic drinks at home (38%), have more alcohol-free days (28%) and stop drinking at home altogether to drink responsibly and moderately (22%).

Matt Lambert, CEO, the Portman Group – the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator said: “The variety and availability of low and no alcoholic drinks has never been stronger, reflecting a huge increase in consumer popularity.

“The vast majority of consumers already drink responsibly within the Chief Medical Officer guidelines, but it is particularly pleasing to see evidence that low and no options are playing a role in encouraging people to moderate their drinking.”

Notes to editors

  1. *Use of the term ‘semi-regular drinkers’ refers to those who either ‘often’ or ‘sometimes’ drink low and no alcohol products.
  2. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,381 adults, 206 of whom in Scotland. Fieldwork was undertaken between 28th – 29th November 2022. A similar survey was carried out in December 2021. The surveys were carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

In response to the Scottish Government’s Consultation on Restricting Alcohol Advertising and Promotion, which reviews the role of Portman Group’s regulatory remit, Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group, the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator, said:

“The majority of adults in Scotland are moderate or non-drinkers and it is encouraging that binge drinking, alcohol-related crime and underage drinking have all significantly declined. These recommendations are entirely disproportionate and inhibit consumers’ ability to make informed choices, and restrict the ability to trade for producers and retailers who ensure that alcohol is sold responsibly.

“The Portman Group’s Codes of Practice have played a significant role in helping to achieve reductions in underage drinking, through extensive commitments to ensure that marketing and sponsorship does not target under 18s or vulnerable consumers.

“The Scottish Government’s own Health Survey published last week shows that average weekly intake has fallen to well below the official UK Government weekly guidelines. This has all occurred at a time when the amount of advertising spend has increased, suggesting that there isn’t an immediate correlation between them.

“However, there is still work to be done in addressing the small minority that drink to harmful levels and they require targeted health led interventions.

“We are pleased to see that the Scottish Government are prepared to work with existing regulators, and we commit to engage fully and constructively with the process.”


Notes to Editors

The consultation is expansive, and includes:

  • Banning alcohol adverts in print media – newspapers and magazines
  • A ban on sports sponsorship in Scotland, which would also include bans on players and staff featuring in alcohol adverts in print and online.
  • A ban on alcohol events sponsorship.
  • A total ban on outdoor alcohol advertising including on vehicles and in public places
  • Restrictions on the retail of display of alcohol
  • Ban the sales of alcohol-branded merchandise in Scotland,
  • Extending any marketing restrictions to low and no alcohol alternatives which share branding with drinks over 1.2% ABV.
  • Restricting the content of alcohol advertising to only factual statements – citing the law in Estonia.

Reviews are also being carried out on areas outside of the regulatory competence of the Scottish Government. This includes:

  • Banning alcohol-related social media channels and websites in Scotland
  • Banning or introducing a watershed for alcohol advertising on TV and radio

Key statistics

  • When reviewing the impact of advertising it is worth considering that “the top 10 most loved drinks brands among 18-24 year olds are all soft drinks”. This consumer insight is based on the opinions of over 96,000 UK adults aged 18-74 across 350 soft and alcoholic drinks brands, collected through BrandVue Drinks – Savanta’s market intelligence platform 2022 – the largest and most comprehensive brand tracking engine in the market.
  • 77% of adults in Scotland either do not drink or drink within the weekly recommended lower risk guidelines of 14 units – up from 72% a decade ago in 2011. (Scottish Health Survey, November 2022)
  • Similarly, the average weekly unit intake across drinkers has fallen from 13.1 units in 2011 to a record low of 11.3 units a week. (Scottish Health Survey, November 2022)
  • Those drinking above the recommended guidelines has fallen from 28% in 2011 to 23% in 2021. (Scottish Health Survey, November 2022)
  • This fall has been most pronounced amongst young adults (16-24 year olds), with those drinking at higher rates falling from 32% in 2011 to 14% in 2021. (Scottish Health Survey, November 2022)
  • In Scotland, the proportion of 13-15-year olds who drank in the last week has been in overall decline over the past 15 years, falling from 31.5% in 2004 to 13.25% in 2018. (Scottish Government, November 2019)

In response to the release of the National Records of Scotland statistics on alcohol specific deaths, Nicola Bates, Strategy Director of the Portman Group – the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator, said:

“Today’s figures show a small increase in alcohol-specific deaths on top of last year’s sharp increase, every death is a tragedy for the people concerned and their family and friends. The longer term impact of pandemic drinking for a small group of drinkers continues and there is increasing evidence that targeted, health focussed action is needed for those drinking at the highest harm level.”

Responding to the University of Stirling’s packaging focus group, Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group, the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator, said:

“This study demonstrates that the packaging of a product is designed to appeal to different audiences something that would ring true across all forms of marketing and is not in itself a surprise. The key thing is that the naming, packaging and promotion of products must respect the Portman Group Code of Practice which protects consumers from inappropriate marketing and ensures that alcohol is promoted in a responsible way. The Code ensures that alcohol marketing does not target under 18s in particular. It has contributed to over a decade of declines in underage drinking rates in Scotland”.

In response to the recent study by Stirling University on alcohol labelling, Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group, the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator, said:

“This study shows that the majority of consumers have seen health information on products and they do not support additional front of pack warnings. It also fails to account of the amount of information that already appears on the vast majority of alcohol products such as the number of units, the Chief Medical Officer’s low risk guidance and pregnancy warning labels. Most producers also signpost to the alcohol education charity Drinkaware which allows consumers to explore the facts about drinking with the fullest amount of information and context.

“The study also makes clear that moves towards further health warnings are less about tackling harmful drinking and more about “reducing product appeal and social acceptability”. Given that the vast majority of Scottish and UK consumers drink moderately it is therefore disproportionate to propose such alarmist warnings.”


  1. The Informing Alcohol Consumers – 2021 UK market review surveyed 400 alcohol products covering the top UK brands available to consumers and shows that:
  • 99% of the products reviewed already carry a pregnancy warning logo or message.
  • 94% carry alcoholic unit content information.
  • 93% carry a reference either to responsible drinking or Drinkaware.
  • 79% carry the latest UK Chief Medical Officer guidance that it is safest not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week.
  • Close to half (47%) already carry calorie information on labels – showing significant progress ahead of the schedules in implementing voluntarily cross-sector European-wide commitment.  The findings re-emphasise the ongoing serious commitment of the alcohol industry to the highest standards of voluntary best practice, with Portman Group recommendations applied near universally, and ensuring that consumers are able to make an informed choice.

2. 4 in 5 (77%) UK adults either do not drink or drink below the 14 unit low risk threshold set by the Chief Medical Officer. This figure is based on combining latest data on adult drinking from Health Survey for England; Scottish Health Survey; National Survey for Wales; Health Survey Northern Ireland

Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group – the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator said:

“The UK Government recently looked at the issue of airport licencing rules and concluded that further action was unnecessary, partly due to the positive voluntary action already being taken by the aviation, retail and hospitality industry.

“Whilst the majority of airport travellers drink moderately, we recognise the problems caused by a minority. Reducing levels of disruptive alcohol-related behaviour is a shared responsibility and we are pleased to see that positive action is already being taken in this area by the aviation, retail and hospitality industry.

“Such initiatives include the extension of existing schemes, such as the Best Bar None initiative at Manchester, East Midlands and London Stansted airports. We support further rollout of similar schemes across UK airports and encourage all travellers to drink responsibly.”

Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group – the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator said:

“Public Health Scotland’s latest data reaffirms a body of research that shows overall alcohol consumption fell during 2020.

“Yet in contrast alcohol-related deaths tragically increased which may in part be due to the heaviest drinkers finding it harder to access support. There is a duty of care to now focus on targeted measures for the minority, those who were already drinking at the heaviest and most harmful rates, who then increased their drinking as the impact of the pandemic compounded existing problems.

“Finally, we would be interested to understand why this report focuses on alcohol sales while downplaying the Scottish Government’s own studies on actual alcohol consumption that shows a persistent fall in drinking rates for over a decade. With the majority of people in Scotland drinking an average of 12.1 units a week, below the CMO low risk guidelines of 14 units per week, it is important to view drinking rates accurately and address this within policy making.”

Data: Scottish Government Health Survey shows the average alcohol consumption in 12.1 units a week compared to the CMO low risk guidelines of 14 units per week.

Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group – the alcohol social responsibility body and marketing regulator said:

“Whilst the long term downward trend in alcohol-related hospital admissions is to be welcomed, we recognise that today’s statistics do not provide a full and representative picture as the figures are from the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when general admissions were down.

“We repeat our call for the Scottish Government to take targeted measures to help those drinking at the heaviest and most harmful rates, who have been hit hard by the effects of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.”