Another meaningless attainment gap useful only as fodder for the thick opposition

I’m in before the BBC Scotland researchers and ahead of the press deadlines for tomorrow with this story they’re going to love:

The ratio (Scotland:England) of monthly trend rates for wholly attributable deaths slightly increased from the start of the study period until the end of the pre-MUP period (Figure 1), indicating a worsening of wholly attributable deaths rates in Scotland compared to England.

The headlines tomorrow? SNP drinks policy failure!?

Whose side is Public Health Scotland on? None, they will say, we’re scientists. We just report the facts.

What did they do?

We describe changes over time in the rate of health harms both wholly, and partially, attributable to alcohol consumption in Scotland and England. We used a statistical method called controlled interrupted time series regression, which is widely used for estimating the impact of population-level interventions. This allowed us to
take into account underlying trends and seasonal patterns in the data. By incorporating outcome data for a geographical control area, we were able to compare what happened in Scotland to what happened in an area where MUP was not implemented. In this analysis, England was our best available geographical control area. Using this method allowed us to estimate the overall effect of MUP on alcohol-attributable health harms in Scotland; we
refer to this as the controlled model.

England has always had less of a problem with drink than Scotland and has 10 times the population. Why didn’t they use Ireland or Finland? That’s not just science, that’s politics.

Who for a minute thought that even if Scotland had reduced alcohol-related harms, due perhaps in part to MUP but also to a range of other cultural shifts, especially among the young, that England would not also see further reductions? Then Scotland is relatively no better, perhaps worse, relative to England than it was before and critics can then claim the scheme has failed.

No one thought or said that MUP was a ‘silver bullet’ but that won’t stop the critics.

An attainment gap study set up between two very different countries tells us nothing useful.

Here’s something useful:

In 2020/21 the rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions to general acute hospitals was 614 per 100,000 populations and was 10% lower than the rate recorded during 2019/20 (681 per 100,000).

Second: NHS Scotland smashes drug and alcohol waiting times targets

Of the 8,202 referrals to community-based specialist drug and alcohol treatment services completed in this quarter [January to March 2022], 92% involved a wait of three weeks or less.

The target is 90%.

Third: SNP Minimum Pricing has worked

Despite desperate attempts by opposition parties and their MSM lackeys to somehow suggest that the ‘SNP’ minimum pricing policy is not working in Scotland, their arguments do not survive a collision with the evidence.

While alcohol-related deaths, in Scotland, did rise during the period of pandemic lockdowns in 2020, they had fallen for the 3 previous years, after the implementation of the policy in May 2018. The above BBC report suggests:

Heavy home drinking during the pandemic may have set habits that will lead to rises in alcohol-related deaths and illness in England, forecasters warn. The work, commissioned for the NHS, suggests even under the best-case scenario of people cutting back to pre-pandemic boozing levels, there could be 1,830 extra deaths within two decades.

There is no mention of the Scottish policy in a report with experts content only to warn but not to suggest solutions.

Even if they tend not to look north for ideas, they surely read the Lancet:

The evidence base supporting the positive, targeted impact of MUP is strengthened by the comparable results for Scotland and Wales. The short-term impact of MUP in Scotland during 2018 is maintained during the first half of 2020. MUP is an effective alcohol policy option to reduce off-trade purchases of alcohol and should be widely considered.

The BMJ:

Introducing minimum prices alongside alcohol taxes would limit access to high strength, low price alcohol which is associated with heavy drinking and high levels of harm. It highlighted minimum unit pricing—where the minimum price of a product is determined by the alcohol content only—as one of the most effective policies.

And the World Health Organisation:

Alcohol pricing policies and taxation are among the most effective and cost–effective measures to reduce alcohol consumption and harms – but most countries of the WHO European Region still do not use these valuable tools to their full potential.

Finally, another meaningless attainment gap?

Just like that between the attainment of the most and least deprived in Scottish schools where the gap has not been closed because despite a doubling and more of the percentage of those in the most deprived 20% attaining Level 7 (Advanced Higher/HNC/HE Yr 1), more of those in the least deprived 20% also reached this level.

If you really wanted to close that gap there is one way – don’t let the least deprived take part. It’s been tried and has worked before, in Albania and China.


4 thoughts on “Another meaningless attainment gap useful only as fodder for the thick opposition

  1. I agree that the unionist media are likely to pick up on the bit you’ve highlighted.

    However, despite their complex comparison of trends between Scotland and England, their conclusion in the end is –
    “We conclude that MUP has been effective in reducing levels of alcohol-attributable harm in Scotland. The strongest supporting evidence was that MUP significantly reduced deaths wholly attributable to alcohol consumption. Overall reductions in alcohol-attributable harm were mostly driven by reductions in chronic outcomes. There were increases in some acute outcomes, although these results were more uncertain than results for chronic outcomes. Acute outcomes make up a relatively small proportion of alcohol-attributable harm and were largely offset with reductions in chronic outcomes, resulting in an overall net reduction. We have shown the greatest reductions to have occurred in the 40% most socio-economically deprived areas in Scotland, suggesting that MUP acted to reduce inequalities in alcohol-attributable health harms in Scotland.”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Minimum pricing has been fantastic for the health of our people in Scotland as has been the policy to help those poor souls addicted to alcohol , drugs and other substances , the colonial mechanism that England inflicts on Scotland with its reserved controls is nothing other than a slow death sentence to my fellow Scots who have succumbed to addiction.
    I hate The colonial grip and will do anything to be rid of it.
    So many lives needlessly ruined so that England can continue to keep us poor and steal our resources and our jobs.


  3. Every time you encounter the English accent of a person doing their job , in Scotland keep a mental note of how many you come across and over time begin to ask yourself , don’t we have Scottish people that can do that job ? and if it’s in your own workplace ask yourself , did I see this job advertised in my local press , if the answer is no politely ask where it was advertised , you might find the answer was England and only England and there you have it , the colonial behaviour of employers in partnership with Westminster keeping Scotland and its people poor.


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