SCOTLAND is in the grip of an epidemic of underage drinking, with an average of three ambulances called out every day to deal with drunk children.
Girls and boys as young as ten have been treated by 999 crews after collapsing during a drinking binge.
Scottish Ambulance Service figures show they have been called out 3,500 times since 2010 to treat intoxicated children, costing the taxpayer nearly £1million.
Some 2,000 patients as young as 11 have also been admitted to Scottish hospitals for alcohol-related incidents in the past 18 months.
Last night there were demands for the parents of drunken children to feel the full force of the law.
Scottish Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: ‘There is only so much the authorities can do when it comes to stopping youngsters engaging in this kind of (drunken) behaviour.
‘We need parents to step up as well; they’re the ones with the ultimate responsibility. A child being rescued by an ambulance because of alcohol abuse is already well on the road to a chaotic lifestyle and if we want to change Scotland’s relationship with alcohol, we have to start there.’ Campaign groups also point out that some parents are fuelling the youth drinking culture by buying alcohol for their children.
A report released in 2012 said one in seven children got their parents to purchase drink for them. And in 2011, about one in three 15-yearolds and one in seven 13-year-olds surveyed said they had drunk alcohol that week, with one in seven children saying they got their parents to buy alcohol for them.
Jennifer Curran, of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: ‘A recent survey of Scottish school pupils aged 13 and 15 found that friends and relatives are their most common source of alcohol. It is an offence to buy alcohol on behalf of anyone under the age of 18 but there are very few prosecutions.
‘Research shows that the earlier a young person begins to drink alcohol, the more likely they are to drink in ways that can be risky later in life. All adults have a responsibility to protect children and young people from alcohol harm.’
Chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, Dr Evelyn Gillan, said: ‘We must be aware that our young people are growing up in a proalcohol society where drinking is portrayed as a normal part of everyday life. To better protect our children, one of the best things we can do is to increase the ludicrous pocket money prices at which some alcohol is sold.’
On average, children under the age of 18 receive £25 pocket money a month in Britain. This means they can afford to buy 21 litres of cider or 105 shots of vodka.
A survey published last year showed one in three Scottish children had been binge drinking by the age of 13. This was the second highest rate in Europe, topped only by the Netherlands.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘We are determined to tackle the problem of underage drinking.
‘The introduction of minimum pricing will affect the cheap, high strength alcohol that is often attractive to younger people and we have already introduced legislation to crack down on those who sell alcohol to under 18s.
‘We are also improving substance misuse education in schools and continuing support for diversionary activities for youngsters through Cashback for Communities.’