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Ross calls drug death figures a ‘stain on Scotland’ and demands action

·4-min read

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has said the latest drug death statistics are a “stain on Scotland”.

Figures released by National Records of Scotland on Friday show 1,339 people died in 2020 as a result of drugs.

The statistics showed those from the least affluent areas are 18 times more likely to die than their more well-off counterparts.

Mr Ross’ party has proposed a Right to Recovery Bill, which would enshrine in law the right for someone struggling with addiction to receive the treatment they request.

He said: “These latest statistics are horrifying and heartbreaking. Behind every number is a lost loved one and a broken family.

“These shocking figures alone cannot capture the agony, pain and devastation that the drugs crisis is causing in communities across Scotland.

“The drugs crisis is our national shame. It is a stain on Scotland that so many of our most vulnerable people have been left without hope, crushed by a system that is thoroughly broken.

“This is not a day for political posturing but it is a simple fact that the Government’s small steps are not cutting it. The crisis is getting worse and spiralling out of control.

“We need a united national effort to make the drastic changes necessary to overhaul the broken system.”

He added: “The Scottish Conservatives are bringing forward a Right to Recovery Bill to guarantee in law that everyone who needs treatment can get it.

“This proposal has the backing of frontline groups and experts across the political spectrum. SNP MSPs are reportedly on board privately. We only need the Government to wake up, stop stalling and support it.”

The Tory leader pointed to the passage of a Bill extending emergency coronavirus restrictions in just three days before the parliamentary recess, saying “We can introduce a Right to Recovery law swiftly if we adopt a similar sense of urgency”.

He added: “Overnight, we won’t end this crisis. But we can start on the right path today and take the necessary action now, if the Government throws their weight behind this proposal.”

Scottish Green health spokeswoman, Gillian MacKay, said the figures were proof the approach to drugs had failed.

“Today’s tragic figures are yet another reminder of the devastating impact of drug misuse has on communities in Scotland. Every single one of these deaths is a preventable tragedy,” she said.

“The approach to drugs, pursued by both the UK and Scottish Governments, must change.

“The war on drugs has demonstrably failed, it’s long past time we treated this crisis as the public health emergency that it is.

“It is time for an approach which focuses on restoring people’s dignity and treating their addiction, rather than criminalising them.

“While long-term plans are now being developed to tackle this crisis, they come far too late for many. And for those in crisis now, they need to see urgent action, not more empty words.”

Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, described the deaths as a “travesty”, adding: “These are the tragic consequences of years of failure to get to grips with this growing crisis in Scotland and to address the threat posed by drugs.

“We have the same drugs laws as the rest of the UK but three and a half times the rate of drugs deaths.

Anas Sarwar in Holyrood
Anas Sarwar described the figures as ‘a travesty’ (Jane Barlow/PA)

“We need to look at every option to address this travesty – but we cannot afford to kick this into the long grass when lives are at stake.

“We can and must act now, by investing in a range of services and delivering truly person-centred treatment and recovery.”

Dr Rebecca Lawrence, the chair of the addictions faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, said the number of drug deaths was “spiralling out of control”.

She said: “Rehabilitation should always be there at the right time, for the right individuals.

“Other facilities like safe consumption rooms may also help those who can’t stop injecting, but one size does not fit all and fully resourced community services, with rapid access for all patients, must be provided.

“It’s shameful that Scotland still continues to be known as the drug-death capital of Europe.

“Stigma still very much exists and what we need now is a public health, evidence-based approach to tackle dependency.”

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