Holyrood committees to focus on scourge of drugs deaths in Scotland

Three committees will hold joint sessions to take evidence from leading figures in the UK and Scottish Governments.

Holyrood committees to focus on scourge of drugs deaths in Scotland PA Media
Drug deaths: 1339 in Scotland in 2020.

Three Scottish Parliament committees are to hold joint sessions on drug deaths next week.

The Health, Social Care and Sport, Criminal Justice and Social Justice and Social Security Committees will take evidence from the UK and Scottish Governments and the new head of the drug deaths taskforce.

Drug misuse in Scotland has come to the fore in recent years as the number of deaths each year has continued to rise, with 1339 people dying in 2020.

The first session, due to take place on Tuesday, will speak to UK policing minister, Kit Malthouse.

One of the controversies throughout the crisis has been over the creation of safe consumption rooms, where people struggling with addiction would be able to take drugs under the supervision of medical professionals.

The Scottish Government and local authorities have called for the facilities to be opened, but the UK Government, who would be required to provide a waiver to current drug laws to ensure patients or staff would not be criminalised, are opposed.

Drugs minister, Angela Constance, and David Strang, the new head of the taskforce, will appear before the joint session on Wednesday.

Strang, a former Chief Inspector of Prisons, was appointed earlier this month after the original chairwoman, Professor Catriona Matheson, quit because of pressure from Ms Constance to provide recommendations faster.

Criminal Justice Committee convener, Audrey Nicoll, will chair the meetings.

“Problem drug use, and tragically, drugs deaths blight too many families and communities in Scotland,” she said.

“We know that the roots of these issues are complex and historical, and that the taskforce recommendations touch many policy areas.

“Implementing the wide ranging solutions requires a co-ordinated approach by Parliament and Government.

“Addressing this drugs crisis is a priority for our committees. We want to support the individuals and families affected, as well as the agencies who work with them and the Government in taking the right actions to reduce drug deaths and tackle the misuse of drugs.

“I hope these sessions allow us to see some progress in this area, perhaps finding consensus and focus on what more can be done.”

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