Reaction as Joe FitzPatrick leaves Scottish Government

The SNP MSP quit his ministerial position, having come under pressure following a record-high year for drug-related deaths.

Reaction as Joe FitzPatrick leaves Scottish Government Getty Images

Senior political figures have reacted to Joe FitzPatrick leaving his role as public health minister on Friday.

The SNP MSP quit his ministerial position, having come under pressure following a record-high year for drug-related deaths.

Opposition members told him to step down earlier this week, in light of the confirmation of 1264 deaths involving substance use in 2019.

That culminated in a motion of no confidence being lodged by Scottish Labour, which cited an “inadequate response” in tackling the crisis.

However, FitzPatrick has since said in a statement he had spoken to the First Minister and “agreed” he should leave the Scottish Government.

The representative for Dundee City West said it was clear that his presence as a minister would “become a distraction” when the focus should be on “achieving the change we need to save lives”.

Angela Constance has taken up a dedicated drug policy ministerial role.

Monica Lennon, who called for FitzPatrick’s resignation in the Scottish Parliament, said: “It is right that Joe FitzPatrick has resigned.

“Having been neglected for too long, Scotland’s drug deaths emergency must now be given the full attention of the Scottish Government.

“Urgent funding is needed to boost access to treatment and residential rehab. The Scottish Government must get behind safe consumption facilities, like the voluntary service being run in Glasgow.

“We welcome Angela Constance to her role and Scottish Labour will work with all political parties to prevent drug deaths.

“This must be a turning point. The SNP has failed badly and Joe Fitzpatrick doesn’t bear that responsibility alone.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The families of the 1264 people who lost their lives in the last year to drugs will take little comfort in his resignation.

“They are more interested in how we have reached this shameful position after more than 13 years of the SNP being in power, with Nicola Sturgeon in charge of health for much of that.

“We urged the First Minister to agree to our proposed £20million funding for rehabilitation but got no commitment.

“All the focus must be on the urgent public health crisis of Scotland’s drugs deaths epidemic so we can finally start to reverse the tragic number of lives being lost from drugs.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton, Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson, had said FitzPatrick was “not up to the job” earlier on Friday.

Following the resignation, he said: “The right decision. A decent guy, but clearly out of his depth.”

His party leader Willie Rennie added: “This was inevitable but it does not ease the pressure on the Scottish Government to make up for the terrible failures over the last 13 years on drugs policy. Change is needed and fast.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on FitzPatrick’s departure: “I thank Joe for his work as a minister and the service he has given to government over the last eight years, firstly as minister for parliamentary business and then as minister for public health.

“While the time has now come to make a change in the public health brief, no one should doubt Joe’s hard work, dedication and sincerity.

“He will continue to champion the interests of his constituents at Holyrood, and I wish him well in the future.”

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