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PM urged to make drugs deaths crisis his top priority

Annie Wells MSP has called on the PM to hold a summit on the issue 'as soon as possible'.

Drugs: PM urged to make drugs deaths top priority.
Drugs: PM urged to make drugs deaths top priority.

A Conservative MSP has urged Boris Johnson to make tackling the drugs deaths crisis his top priority in Scotland.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Annie Wells asked Mr Johnson to hold a planned summit on the issue “as soon as possible”.

The UK Government announced in October it would bring experts together in Glasgow before Christmas.

But it was postponed due to the snap general election in December.

Ms Wells has called on both the UK and Scottish governments to place the issue at the top of their agendas.

She said: “The drug deaths summit must happen as soon as possible.

“Both of Scotland’s governments need to put this at the top of their agenda.

“I lost a neighbour, across Scotland we lost 1,187 people in 2018, and I heard from so many families who lost loved ones in 2019.

“So I’ve asked the Prime Minister to make the drug deaths crisis his top priority in Scotland.

“This year we should be focused on saving lives instead of getting caught up in politics and the usual constitutional blame game.

“The drug deaths summit can be the starting point for Scotland’s governments to work better together and for a renewed focus on improving treatment and rehabilitation services.”

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: “The number of drug deaths across the UK is extremely concerning, in particular the figures for Scotland, and every death is a tragedy.

“We will continue to work with the Scottish Government to tackle drug-misuse and harm and sustain our support for programmes which reduce the health-related harms of drugs, such widening the availability of naloxone to prevent overdose deaths.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are working with Glasgow to arrange a summit on drug deaths for early 2020 which will be hosted by the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing.

“We’ve repeatedly invited the UK Government to attend and have been extremely disappointed that they have, to date, refused to attend.

“We firmly believe the outdated Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 should be amended to allow us to implement a range of public health focused responses. 

“We have called on the UK Government to amend the Act or to devolve those powers to Scotland, and this must be part of any discussion we have.

“We have taken a range of actions to address the public health emergency Scotland faces in terms of drug-related deaths.

“This includes setting up a dedicated drug deaths taskforce to inform steps to reduce the harms caused by drugs and advise on further changes in practice, or in the law, which could help save lives.” 

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