Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has asked the World Health Organisation (WHO) to send experts to Scotland to investigate the country’s drugs crisis.
In July, figures showed a record 1339 people in Scotland died from the effects of drugs during 2020.
Provisional figures released last week showed 722 suspected drug deaths in the first six months of this year, a rate which would exceed the 2020 figure if confirmed and duplicated in the second half of the year.
In a letter to the Director General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on Monday, Cole-Hamilton asked for a “taskforce of global experts on drug mortality” to be sent to Scotland to help ease the crisis.
He said: “Scotland has the worst drug mortality in the developed world. It is nearly four times the rate of England and Wales.
“Time and again, the SNP Government have shown themselves unequal to the task of reducing this devastating problem in Scotland. In fact five years ago, with rates rising and records already mounting, Nicola Sturgeon saw fit to cut budgets to drug services by 22%, sending organisations to the wall and severing support.
“Last year we posted a new grim record on drug deaths, triggering a ministerial reshuffle and the introduction of a dedicated post reporting directly to the First Minister.
“On her appointment, the new minister made it clear that first and foremost we just need to stop people dying. She had both my agreement and support for that ambition.
“But nine months later people continue to die at the same rate as before. New statistics indicate that last year’s terrible record will be matched.”
The Scottish Government has been in a legal wrangle with Westminster in recent years, calling for the powers required to create safe consumption rooms, which would provide those struggling with addiction with drugs and a safe place to take them.
But the facilities would require a waiver to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, to make sure staff and users would not be criminalised – a request which was rejected by the Home Office.
The Lib Dem leader added: “The SNP claim that these deaths are a result of UK Government policy. That is a fallacy. If this were the fault of reserved powers or austerity, we would see the same rates of people dying on the streets of London as we see in Glasgow.
“We don’t. Glasgow is 10 times worse. This is a particularly Scottish problem, which now demands international attention.
“That is why this morning I have written to the Director General of the World Health Organisation, asking him to mobilise and send a taskforce of global experts on drug mortality to Scotland to help get this public health disaster under control.”
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