Scotch Whisky Action Fund – learning from experience, planning for the future

27 Nov 2015

Helping local groups in Scotland tackle alcohol misuse

An audience in Glasgow heard how the Scotch Whisky Action Fund is helping projects fighting alcohol misuse in Scotland "take risks and roll out new ideas" thanks to grants they have received.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) set up the £500,000 Scotch Whisky Action Fund in December 2013 to give a total of £100,000 each year to 2018 to projects working to reduce harm in Scotland. The fund, which extends the SWA's commitment to addressing alcohol misuse and promoting responsible drinking, is managed by Foundation Scotland, an independent charity.

An event was held recently (26 November) at the The Lighthouse in Glasgow to share key learning and experiences from organisations benefiting from the fund. The audience, made up of voluntary organisations, members of the Scotch Whisky industry and other interested groups, firstly learned about the SWA's reasons for setting up the Action Fund.

David Frost, SWA chief executive, said:  "Alcohol misuse is a difficult issue for Scotland. It is true that the trends are improving, but more needs to be done. As a responsible industry the Association and our members undertake a huge range of activity to promote responsible consumption and reduce alcohol misuse."

Referring to the Action Fund, Frost explained: "Through independent research we discovered untapped potential to support innovative and pilot projects by allowing these a space to be tested out.  That became a key element of the Fund, which is organised in a way that allows new ideas to be tested and, if they work, scaled up.  This has been central to what we have been doing since the Fund's inception."

Sian Langdon, client services executive, Foundation Scotland, said: "The 'seed corn' element of the Action Fund is there to enable initiatives to take risks and try out something not tested before."

The audience then heard the experiences of some of the organisations that have received grants:

  • Carers of West Dunbartonshire, which used its grant to set up SEARCH (Support and Education for Alcohol Related Challenges in the Home)
  • You Decide - Space Unlimited, which established a youth-led enquiry to generate innovative ideas for intervention by youngsters to reduce alcohol-related harm in Inverclyde
  • Outside the Box Development Support which provides alcohol awareness for older people in South Lanarkshire
  • Mentor UK and its Breaking Out Peer Alcohol Programme in Polmont Young Offenders Institute
  • Clued Up's mobile alcohol intervention team (MAIT) in Fife.

Kim McNab, Carers of West Dunbartonshire service manager, explained how they help carers "realise their own potential and find their own identity". The Action Fund allowed them to pay for a post to help carers impacted by alcohol misuse in their family. And they are launching a 'Coping with Christmas' initiative during mid-December.

Owen Cook, project manager, You Decide - Space Unlimited, said the funding has helped the youngsters involved in the initiative from Port Glasgow High School develop new skills, such as presenting and thinking on their feet, as they raise awareness of alcohol-related issues among their peers. Three pupils - Louise MacKay, Sarah Harrison and Nicole Finlay - from Port Glasgow High took part in the event at The Lighthouse to share their experiences of what they have learned from their involvement in the project.

Anne Connor, Outside the Box chief executive, said that older people who want to continue enjoying alcohol at responsible levels have been unable to find relevant advice about any concerns, such as the effect of drinking on their medication. The Action Fund has helped with a number of initiatives, including a new hints and tips leaflet on 'Enjoying a drink and staying safe as we get older'.

Mentor UK's development manager Gez Lawson said the Action Fund had enabled them to employ a specific worker to focus on under-18s in Polmont. The work included the development of a short alcohol intervention programme to reach those on remand and to develop peer education.

Clued Up service manager Laura Crombie explained how their mobile alcohol intervention team (MAIT) helps reach young people who are out in Fife on a Friday night but don't realise the problems that drinking can cause. Through partnership working, for example with Police Scotland, MAIT can identify youngsters who may be facing a problem and help them address it.

Summing up the event, Dame Joan Stringer, chair of the Scotch Whisky Action Fund, said: "We have learned a lot today from a range of different organisations and people. It will be helpful for me, Foundation Scotland and the awards panel when we're considering future projects to benefit from the Fund. It should also help organisations thinking about applying to understand what the Fund does and doesn't do and overcome any challenges."

The Scotch Whisky Action Fund will re-open for applications from January 2016.


Notes to editors
SWA media contact: Rosemary Gallagher, head of communications, 0131 222 9230/07432 605385 or email
For information on the Action Fund visit
For information on the Scotch Whisky Association visit
More pictures are available here