Opposition call for Holyrood statement on drug deaths

Figures released on Friday showed that 1,339 people died from drugs in 2020.

Opposition call for Holyrood statement on drug deaths PA Ready

Scotland’s two main opposition parties have called for an urgent statement on drug deaths in Holyrood.

Figures released on Friday showed that 1,339 people died from drugs in 2020 – a new record high.

The rate was three-and-a-half times higher than the rest of the UK and the highest in Europe, while the statistics also showed the least affluent were 18 times more likely to die from drugs than their more well off counterparts.

Both the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Labour have called for a ministerial statement on the deaths in parliament.

The decision to recall parliament, which is currently in recess, is one for Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone, although virtual meetings have been scheduled to update MSPs on Covid-19 restrictions – with one such session due on Tuesday.

Tory health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “We have called for a ministerial statement because, despite the latest heartbreaking drug statistics, the SNP government have offered no extra support, no new ideas, no new solutions to this crisis.”

The Tories have introduced a Bill at Holyrood aimed at ensuring people struggling with addiction have the right to the treatment they request.

The Tory MSP added: “The SNP are out of touch with the needs of people on the front line of this crisis. People in our communities don’t need more warm words and empty platitudes, they need action.

“On Tuesday, we hope the government will have the decency to explain why they are stalling on backing our Right to Recovery Bill proposal, which would guarantee everyone who needs addiction treatment can get it.”

Wells also took aim at drugs minister Angela Constance, who attended a vigil set up by a drugs campaign group for those who had lost their lives.

In her speech at the vigil, Constance referenced the Deacon Blue song Dignity and promised to “climb the mountain and turn the tide” of drug deaths, without pledging any specific action, prompting one of the organisers, campaigner Annmarie Ward, to tell her “talk is cheap”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has also called for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to take “personal responsibility” for the deaths.

He said: “The First Minister, who admits she took her eye off the ball on this crisis, must update the Scottish Parliament on what they are now doing to save lives.

“It is not enough for the Government to express regret at these heartbreaking figures – they must be a call to action.

“Every year we get devastating figures, every year they get worse and every year we hear regret from the Government.

“We have the same drug laws as the rest of the UK but three-and-a-half times the rate of drugs deaths.

“Apologising or expressing regret just isn’t good enough.

“The First Minister should put all her political energy into solving this crisis – after 15 years in Government it is a test she must pass.

“If she fails to make progress she should make way for someone who will.”

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