Ministers urged to back right to recovery to tackle drug deaths

More than 1300 people died in Scotland last year as a result of drugs misuse.

Ministers urged to back right to recovery to tackle drug deaths iStock

The Scottish Government has been urged to “be bold” and back a proposal to ensure that those struggling with addiction or substance misuse are guaranteed access to treatment.

The call was made by Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross, whose party has raised the proposal under their new ‘right to recovery’ Bill.

It seeks to enshrine in law the right to addiction and recovery services, including short and long-term residential rehabilitation.

Addressing the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, Scotland’s drugs policy minister Angela Constance indicated that the proposal would be given “serious and fair” consideration, but stressed the need to see the detail of the legislation.

In a statement, Constance also announced funding for a new national facility for families affected by drug use, with £250m to be invested over the next five years.

It comes after statistics published last week indicated that 1339 people died in Scotland last year as a result of drug misuse – the highest annual figure on record.

Ross raised the issue during a statement on the actions being taken to reduce the number of drugs deaths in Scotland.

“Words are not going to solve this crisis, people need action and they expect to hear from the First Minister,” he said.

“For the seventh year in a row, drug deaths have peaked. Our drug death rate is close to four times higher than any other country in Europe.

“In Scotland, if you live in a poorer area, you are 18 times more likely to die from drugs. Behind all those shocking statistics are lost loved ones and broken families.

“When is the First Minister and this government going to wake up? When will she stop abandoning our communities? When is she going to listen to those on the frontline?”

He continued: “We published our proposal for a right to recovery Bill and it’s with Parliament’s team being prepared for its launch.

“It’s being developed by frontline experts to guarantee everyone gets the treatment they need. It’s backed by seven recovery organisations and apparently, SNP MSPs.

“It would cut through the broken system and save lives. People who’ve lost family members and close friends to drugs deserve a straight answer.

“So, if the First Minister won’t won’t come to Parliament today and give a commitment, will the minister?

“Quite simply, will the Scottish Government be bold? Back our Bill.”

Constance said that she would not give a blanket commitment to the Scottish Conservative leader.

She responded: “I know that Mr Ross has not been in this Parliament as long as I have been and I appreciate that he may not know me very well.

“But, I don’t play games and I’m not remotely interested in playground politics.

“With respect to his proposal to enshrine the right to treatment, let me be clear once again – I will of course, as will the First Minister, give serious consideration to any proposition, serious and fair consideration.

She continued: “With respect, I have to say to Mr Ross I have still to see the Bill, I am not going to give him a blind or blanket commitment.

“It is my job to look at the detail because scrutiny works both ways and bearing in mind, I have made a number of detailed commitments around investment and delivery to this Parliament and of course have the Government’s manifesto to implement.

“(If) Mr Ross wants me to implement his idea and his manifesto commitments, it’s imperative that I see the detail of that work.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “The minister is right to say that this is Scotland’s national shame, but she must recognise it is the Scottish National Party’s shame too.

“We need urgent action to save lives. We can’t ignore the link between Scotland’s higher drugs death rate and our suicide rates.

“We need a coherent strategy and a plan from this government.”

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