LABOUR MSP Paul O’Kane has called on the Scottish Government to ensure alcohol services more effectively support LGBTQ+ people.

The politician recently sponsored a Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) parliamentary event.

It highlighted the significant alcohol-related health inequalities experienced by the Scottish LGBTQ+ community, and made recommendations for actions to overcome this.

The event showcased a recent SHAAP report which revealed that LGBTQ+ people in Scotland are more likely to have problems with alcohol and experience major barriers in accessing alcohol services.

Mr O’Kane, who represents Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire as part of his remit as West Scotland MSP, said: “Having this event at Holyrood was all about ensuring that MSPs could understand more about this quite taboo subject of LGBTQ+ alcohol related inequalities.

“Listening to the research, it made me reflect on many of the social safe spaces LGBTQ+ people have and how the vast majority of involve alcohol in some way, so there’s definitely a mission before us to ensure there are more alcohol free social spaces.

“Sadly, we heard accounts of people who have sought a kind of refuge in alcohol as a way to cope with the struggle of accepting who they are or rather the struggle other people had with accepting who that person was, which is heartbreaking.”

The event included speeches and presentations from Paul O’Kane - the first openly gay man to represent Labour at Holyrood - who was also the first MSP to add his name to a signed joint letter to the Scottish Government, which calls for the forthcoming Alcohol Treatment Guidance to specifically address the needs of LGBTQ+ people.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are closely considering the findings of this report. We must empower more LGBTQ+ people to seek support when it is needed and make that support consistent, flexible, and effective. Many of the recommendations made in the report are for alcohol service providers and we would encourage them to act on them and ensure their services are inclusive