Public Health (Gambling)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 4 February 2021.

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Photo of John Mason John Mason Scottish National Party

4. To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on a recent University of Sheffield report, “Interventions to reduce the public health burden of gambling-related harms”, which recognises that gambling should be treated as a serious public health concern. (S5O-04972)

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

We welcome the report from the University of Sheffield. Gambling has the potential to negatively affect the physical and psychological health and the social functioning of people who gamble, and of others around them.

In common with our approach to other compulsive and addictive behaviours, we address problem gambling as part of wider health issues. Anyone who believes that gambling is affecting their health or that of a loved one should consult their general practitioner, in the first instance. Out of hours advice and support can be obtained from NHS 24 or the Breathing Space helpline. The NHS Inform website also contains advice and signposting information.

When a person with addictive or compulsive behaviours is referred to a service for treatment, it might not be to a specialist gambling addiction programme. However, the clinical team will work with the individual to identify issues and problems that are important, in order to support their recovery and to provide evidenced-based treatment.

The Scottish Government is already working with BeGambleAware and the Gambling Commission on implementation of the commission’s national strategy to reduce gambling harms, which was published in 2019. We are working closely with Public Health Scotland to assess existing evidence on which pathways to treatment are likely to be most successful in Scotland, including evaluation of pathways that are being trialled in other nations. We are also keen to understand why some people with problematic gambling are not accessing treatment and support services.

Photo of John Mason John Mason Scottish National Party

I thank the minister for that full answer. The report talks about reducing demand for and supply of gambling opportunities. Will the minister say what more we could do to protect people who are most at risk—for example, children and young people?

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government recognises the harms that are related to gambling. For that reason, responsibility for tackling it rests with public health authorities. As with other issues involving addiction, we adopt a dual focus of reducing the burden that is caused to individuals and society while protecting children and young people from potential harm. To reduce that burden, we are implementing, in Scotland, the

Gambling Commission’s strategy, which aims to restrict the levels of gambling that cause harm. Through education and early intervention, our approach to the strategy will also focus on giving children and young people more information about gambling harms.