Kirkcaldy councillors have become the first in Fife to call for a ban on new off-licences in a bid to tackle the shock cost of problem boozing.
Members of Kirkcaldy area committee have endorsed a recommendation that off-sales across the area should be capped amid revelations of soaring hospital admissions and rising death rates caused by alcohol.
And they warned the move should be just part of a package of measures to help people cut down on drinking.
Experts from NHS Fife, Fife Council and Fife Alcohol and Drug Partnership said alcohol was costing the region an estimated £130 million a year and high levels of provision were associated with high levels of harm.
Councillors on Fife’s seven area committees are being asked for their input before the licensing board produces a new policy in November.
Kirkcaldy members heard the area has the third highest number of off-sales premises and the second highest rate of hospital admissions due to alcohol.
While the greatest harm is being caused in Fife’s most deprived areas of Cowdenbeath and Levenmouth, which have the highest number of off-licences, two of Kirkcaldy’s most deprived areas have much higher than average rates of alcohol-related deaths.
Committee members said any ban should be Fife-wide to avoid stigmatising certain areas.
Councillor David Ross, Fife Council’s co-leader, said other ways to address problem drinking should also be considered.
“Hospital admissions are higher because of health inequalities and the reason for that is underlying poverty,” he said.
“We are kidding ourselves if we think this is going to have the effect of reducing alcohol consumption and the medical effects of alcohol consumption.
“We should be looking at it in other contexts rather than a standalone answer.”
Meanwhile, Glenrothes area committee members have stopped short of calling for a ban.
Councillors there heard the rates of alcohol-related deaths for the area were considerably higher than the Fife average.
However, members agreed they would work with Fife licensing board to explore ways of minimising harm by “managing the availability of off-sales premises”.
Councillor Ross Vettraino said he would support any measures that mitigate the “abject misery” caused by alcohol and indicated he would also support a move to stop new off-sales licences.
Councillor Altany Craik said councillors must avoid becoming a “hostage to fortune” by committing to a blanket ban – pointing out the town was preparing to welcome a new Marks and Spencer food hall.