This website is now part of Public Health Scotland. Publications released after 16 March 2020 are now published on the Public Health Scotland website.
Improving health
Previously NHS Health Scotland

In 2010 the former NHS Health Scotland were tasked with evaluating Scotland’s alcohol strategy. The programme we established to do this was called Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS).

We worked with our partners at NHS National Services Scotland Information Services Division to deliver the programme. Now, as Public Health Scotland, we continue this programme of work together. 

On this page you will find all our MESAS reports. Our final annual report and infographics were published in March 2016. 

The final report notes that alcohol harm in Scotland fell between 2003 and 2012. Parts of the Scottish Government’s alcohol strategy have contributed to this decline.

The problems caused by alcohol in Scotland remain at a high level and in recent years associated harms have started to rise. The report provides recommendations of what more needs to be done to ensure improvements continue. This includes evidence in support of the introduction of minimum unit pricing and continued monitoring of key alcohol statistics.

Minimum unit pricing

The Scottish Government has also tasked us, under the MESAS work programme, with leading the evaluation of minimum unit pricing (MUP). You can read more about this work on our minimum unit pricing page.

Alcohol consumption and COVID-19

The MESAS team has undertaken additional pieces of work to contribute to the understanding of alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 lockdown. We have published two reports and a briefing paper that explore how COVID-19 and related restrictions have impacted on alcohol sales and consumption in Scotland in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can download the following reports:

Monitoring Report

In response to the recommendation to continue to monitor key alcohol statistics, we now publish an annual monitoring report. This brings together the latest data on

  • alcohol sales
  • alcohol price
  • self-reported consumption
  • alcohol-specific deaths
  • alcohol-related hospitalisations
  • social harms.

The data show that Scotland’s problem with alcohol persists. As a nation we continue to buy enough alcohol for every adult in Scotland to substantially exceed the low risk weekly drinking guideline.

Units per adult: A line chart showing the trend in the average units of alcohol sold per adult per week in Scotland and in England & Wales from 1994-2020. The x-axis presents the years from 1994 to 2020. The y-axis presents the number of units of pure alcohol per adult per week.  It should be noted that data were not available from 1996 to 1999; this is indicated by dotted lines between these years in the trends shown. 
Description of the trend for Scotland: In 1994, 19.3 units were sold per adult in Scotland each week. This rose to 22.4 units per week in 2005 and stayed at around this level until 2010 when it started to fall.  By 2013 the volume of pure alcohol sold per adult had fallen to 19.9 units per week, and it remained around this level until 2018. The volume of pure alcohol sold per adult per week then decreased, and by 2020 it was the lowest in the time series, at 18.0 units.

You can download the most recent report, the MESAS Monitoring Report 2021, along with the supporting datasets.

You can also read our final annual report and supporting datasets.

What the MESAS programme looked at

The MESAS programme looked at the following questions.

  • How might the strategy be implemented differently to improve effectiveness?
  • Are some people and businesses affected - both positively and negatively - more than others?
  • How and to what extent has implementing the package of measures, taken together and/or individually, contained in the Scottish alcohol strategy contributed to reducing alcohol related harms?

We took a ‘theory of change’ approach to address the evaluation questions presented above. The theory of change assumed that alcohol related harms will reduce if alcohol consumption goes down.

Our evaluation included eight separate studies and there are five previous annual reports that you can access on our MESAS resources page.