Scotland is facing a spiraling crime "apocalypse" driven by its heavy-drinking culture. That's the warning of the country's most senior legal officer. "Alcohol is present in almost all violent crime," said Elish Anglioni, Scotland's lord advocate. Here, a quick guide to Scotland's alcohol problem, and what can be done about it:
Just how much do Scottish people drink?
A lot. Scots aged 18 and over bought an average of 1,227 units of alcohol in 2009 — which adds up to about 12.2 liters of alcohol per year. Americans, by contrast, drink 9.4 liters a year. Nearly 5 percent of Scottish adults are dependent on alcohol, and one study suggested that one in 20 Scots dies of alcohol-related causes. The government says alcohol abuse costs it £4.6 billion ($7.4 billion) a year.
What does Anglioni mean, a crime apocalypse?
Simply that crime in Scotland is fueled by alcohol abuse. In a 2008 survey, nearly half of Scottish prison inmates admitted they were drunk when they committed their crimes. "What I see now, in many cases," says Anglioni, "is both the accused and indeed victims purchasing very substantial quantities of very cheap alcohol."
How cheap is alcohol in Scotland?
Very cheap, if you buy it to go. A two-liter bottle of alcoholic cider can be bought from grocery stores for £1.32 ($2.13), while drinkers can get their hands on vodka at just £7.97 ($12.84) a bottle.
What is the Scottish government doing about it?
Not a whole lot. Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish health minister, has proposed a minimum price of 45 pence (73 cents) for a unit of alcohol. That would effectively triple the cost of alcoholic drinks. Opposition ministers vetoed the proposal, calling it an unfair tax on the poor and underprivileged. A move to raise the drinking age to 21 was also defeated in the face of widespread student demonstrations. Another proposal was to ban Buckfast, a caffeinated spirit wine popular among young drinkers. That, too, was scrapped by the government.