A motion of no confidence in the public health minister has been drawn up by Scottish Labour, following another record-high year for drug-related deaths in Scotland.
Pressure is growing on Joe FitzPatrick – who has been told to step down by opposition politicians – after 1264 deaths involving substance use were recorded in the country in 2019.
It’s a higher rate than across all EU countries and more than three times the UK as a whole and has led to Scottish Labour putting forward its motion on Friday.
Monica Lennon MSP, Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson, said: “Under Joe FitzPatrick’s watch, Scotland’s drug deaths crisis is becoming more and more tragic by the day.
“It’s clear that the public health minister does not carry the confidence of the recovery community and those who are desperately fighting for access to treatment and rehab services. Regardless of what MSPs think of Joe as a person, that’s what matters most.”
She added the Scottish Parliament “must take responsibility and send a signal that the victims of Scotland’s drug deaths epidemic do matter.”
Lennon said: “We owe it to those who have died, their families and the thousands of drug users who are fighting to stay alive today to put someone competent in charge.”
Alex Cole-Hamilton, Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson said FitzPatrick is a “likeable public figure” but “just not up to the job.”
‘That the parliament has no confidence in the minister for public health, sport and wellbeing in light of his inadequate response to tackling drug-related deaths.’Motion text
He added: “He has publicly floundered when questioned about the vaccine and the devastating drug death statistics.
“He simply does not command the confidence of our party and very likely the parliament.”
If the motion is supported by 25 members, it can be heard in the debating chamber.
Speaking at Holyrood earlier this week, FitzPatrick said in the last two years the Scottish Government had “taken considerable action to improve the service”.
In response to calls for him to quit, he said: “Fortunately I have great confidence that across Scotland many of the people who are working at the front end of this public health emergency take a different view and continue to work really hard to turn this around.”
The First Minister has admitted the drugs death rate is “completely unacceptable” and has pledged to work with FitzPatrick on the matter.