A campaign group has urged every candidate in next year’s Holyrood election to support a “total ban” on alcohol advertising.

In its manifesto ahead of the vote in May, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) is pushing for parties to support four “focus areas” aimed at reducing alcohol-related harms.

They have asked for a reduction in the affordability, availability and attractiveness of alcohol, which includes restrictions on advertising, promotions and sponsorship, as well as a review of minimum unit pricing with the possibility of raising the current 50p rate.

READ MORE: Health fears over 'alarming' increase in drinking during lockdown

Minimum unit pricing came into effect in 2018 after years of legal wrangling.

HeraldScotland:

Sales in off-licences and supermarkets dropped by between 4% and 5% in the year after its introduction, according to a study by Public Health Scotland earlier this year.

SHAAP also said regulations should be created on sales, creating alcohol-only shops and removing drinks from supermarkets, adding government control of alcohol sales should be “seriously explored”.

Investing in treatment, reducing health inequalities and protecting young people are other key areas the group – which is a partnership between the Medical Royal Colleges in Scotland and the Faculty of Public Health – is hoping will garner support from prospective MSPs and their parties.

The manifesto says: “Scotland is an international leader in advancing evidence-based alcohol policies that protect people’s health.

“Yet despite the commitments and achievements of the 2009 and 2018 alcohol frameworks, levels of alcohol harm in Scotland remain high.”

It adds: “The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed life in Scotland since March 2020.

“For alcohol, the pandemic has accelerated the long-standing trend towards home drinking, which involves additional potential risks.

“So far, research indicates that the heavier drinkers have increased their consumption.”

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SHAAP chairman Dr Peter Rice said: “Covid-19 has shone a light on the patchy and often disjointed nature of alcohol treatment service provision, even prior to lockdown, and we do not yet know what long-term impact the pandemic will have on people’s drinking behaviours, though research so far indicates that heavier drinkers have increased their consumption.

“Our 2021 manifesto highlights cost-effective, evidence-based policies that, if properly implemented, will work to ensure that Covid-19 does not exacerbate alcohol-related harm and health inequalities in Scotland and that we are able to meet long-term public health goals that are essential if we are to build a healthier, fairer future.”

HeraldScotland:

Statistics published this week by Public Health Scotland showed a slight drop in alcohol-related hospital admissions between 2019-20 and the previous year, with 23,685 people admitted a total of 35,781 times.

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon described the statistics as proof of a “ticking health time bomb” in Scotland.