DRUGS: SNP candidates’ “shameful silence” on drugs-deaths epidemic

The scourge of drug deaths in Scotland requires SNP minister Angela Constance’s full backing for Right to Recovery Bill.

By Bill Heaney

The SNP leadership candidates have been accused of a “shameful silence” on Scotland’s drugs-death epidemic which has spiralled out of control on Nicola Sturgeon’s watch.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said it was “astonishing and unacceptable” that this “national emergency” had scarcely featured in the bitter campaign, as he urged all three would-be First Ministers to finally back his Right to Recovery Bill.

In 2021 alone, 1,330 people died in Scotland from drugs misuse, making the fatality rate here – by a huge margin – the worst in Europe, and ensuring it will go down as one of Nicola Sturgeon’s most damaging legacies.

Yet despite this – and the fact that Ash Regan, Kate Forbes and Humza Yousaf have happily traded insults and slammed numerous SNP policies – the need to tackle the drugs-deaths crisis has not featured in either of the two televised leadership debates so far. 

Douglas Ross, left, said: “It is astonishing and unacceptable that Scotland’s drugs-deaths crisis has scarcely been mentioned in the bitter SNP leadership race.

“The fatality rate here is not just the worst in Europe, it’s off-the-scale dreadful – a national emergency that should haunt Nicola Sturgeon, and demands immediate action from her successor.

“Instead, we’re witnessing a shameful silence from the SNP leadership rivals.

“They have been queuing up to rubbish each other and the record of the government they have served in – especially Kate Forbes – and yet have barely raised arguably the worst failure of all.

“My Right to Recovery Bill could be a game-changer when it comes to tackling drug addiction. It has the backing of experts in the field and would enshrine in law the right of everyone to receive the treatment they need, including, if required, residential rehab.

“The SNP drugs minister has issued warm words on the bill but It’s time for all three leadership candidates to come off the fence and give it their full backing.

“The SNP, as Nicola Sturgeon admitted, took its eye off the ball with drug deaths. It’s high time those vying to succeed her got their eye back on it.” 

The drug deaths rate in Scotland is nearly five times higher than the rate down south. In England and Wales there were 3,060 drug deaths identified as drug misuse, or 53.2 deaths per million people, in 2021. In Scotland, there were 1,330 drug misuse deaths, which equates to a death rate per million of 243. This means the death rate in Scotland is 4.6 times higher compared to England and Wales. (Drug related deaths in Scotland 2021, 28 July 2022, link;  Deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales 2021, 3 August 2022, link).

Drug deaths are much higher in Scotland than in any other European country. Scotland had a drug-death rate of 327 per million population aged 15-64 in 2020. This was much higher than the rates reported for any other country, the next largest being 85 per million for Norway. (National Records of Scotland, Drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2021, 28 July 2022, link).

The principle which underlies the Scottish Conservatives’ Right to Recovery Bill is to ensure that people who are addicted to drugs (and/or alcohol) are able to access the necessary addiction treatment they require. In order to achieve this, the proposed bill, which is due to come before parliament later this year, will enshrine the right to necessary addiction treatment in Scots Law. It would place an obligation on NHS health boards, Scottish Ministers and others, as appropriate, to provide treatment and set up reporting arrangements so that the quality and access of treatment provided can be monitored and reported to the Scottish Parliament. This will ensure that individuals may access a preferred treatment option unless it is deemed to be harmful by a medical professional.

Drugs minister Angela Constance said she would give Right to Recovery “a fair and sympathetic hearing” when asked about it in an interview on BBC Good Morning Scotland on May 30, 2022. She said: “In terms of the proposition put forward by Douglas Ross and his colleagues, I’ve always said it would be given a fair and sympathetic hearing.”

One comment

  1. Drug deaths.

    Sad to say but Dumbarton and environs has one of the highest, if not the highest rate of drug deaths, not just in Scotland, or the UK but the highest in Northern Europe.

    But we know that and frankly far too few care.

    Poor wee Scotland, poor Dumbarton, on our knees again in the rankings.

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