Angela Constance, Nicola Sturgeon and Joe Fitzpatrick.
By Bill Heaney
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has appointed a dedicated Minister for Drug Policy to lead the Scottish Government’s work on tackling and reducing the harm of drug misuse.
Angela Constance will also be responsible for supporting the rehabilitation and recovery of those living with drug addiction, and reducing the unacceptable number of deaths from drugs. The new Minister will report directly to the First Minister.
Ms Constance has been asked by the First Minister to fill the role between now and the election. Her appointment will be put to Parliament for approval next week.
Prior to entering elected politics Ms Constance served as a social worker, including working with people with a history of drug misuse and families living with the consequences of addiction.
In her time as a Cabinet Secretary she also led the government’s early work on the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences and as Communities Secretary worked on poverty and homelessness, giving her a broad perspective on the challenges faced by some of those who are at risk of dying from drug misuse.
She replaces Joe Fitzpatrick who many people see as a scapegoat to heat off Nicola Sturgeon in the wake of the shock announcement of the highest ever number of deaths for drugs misuse in Scotland.
A new Minister for Public Health will be nominated on Monday.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Scotland’s record on drug deaths is simply not good enough and as First Minister I know we have much more to do.
“As a first step I have decided to appoint a dedicated minister, working directly alongside me, whose job it will be to work across government to improve outcomes for people whose lives are affected by drugs.
“We must not accept a situation in which people who use drugs are allowed to fall through the cracks, with so many dying premature and avoidable deaths as a result. Behind the statistics are real people whose lives matter, and I am absolutely determined that we take actions to fix this.”
Angela Constance said: “It is a privilege to be asked to work with the First Minister to address this challenge. I intend to get straight down to business, meeting with people who are at risk of dying from drugs, learning from the families of those we have lost and working with those in our communities and public health teams who are providing such valuable support.
“Government can and will do more and I am determined to use the short time before the election to work with the Drug Death Taskforce on the actions necessary to reduce Scotland’s drug deaths and better support those living with addiction.”
Angela Constance is MSP for Almond Valley. She graduated from the University of Glasgow with a MA (Social Science),
She gained a MSc in Social Work from the University of Stirling before working as a prison-based social worker and mental health officer until becoming an MSP in 2007.
She has previously held the Scottish Government posts of Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities (2016-18), Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning (2014-16), Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment (2014), Minister for Youth Employment (2011-14), Minister for Children and Young People (2011), and Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning (2010-11).