Cuts of almost £19m to drug and alcohol recovery branded 'shameful'

The Scottish Government have been urged by the Scottish Conservatives to take action amid 1,330 drug-related deaths in 2021.

Cuts of almost £19m to drug and alcohol recovery branded ‘shameful’ by Scottish Conservatives Getty Images

A cut of almost £19m to drug and alcohol recovery services has been described as “shameful” by the Scottish Conservatives.

According to figures provided by the Scottish Government in response to a written question from Tory drugs spokeswoman Sue Webber, the 2022/23 budget allocation for these third sector organisations was £111.2m.

The Scottish Government said the Tory claims are “simply false and untrue”, and the result of an incorrect reading of the response.

However, the funds totalled £130.1m the year earlier – a decline of £18.8m.

Alcohol and drug partnerships commissioning services which operate within Scotland’s 14 health boards saw the brunt of the cuts, according to the figures, with its allocation cut from £106.5m in 2021/22 to £89.3m.

The remaining funds were distributed between core funded organisations, the third sector and distributed through the Corra Foundation to grassroots organisations.

Ms Webber urged drugs and alcohol policy minister Elena Whitham to take action amid 1,330 drug-related deaths in 2021 and 1,245 alcohol-linked deaths in 2022.

She said: “These cuts to frontline drug and alcohol support services are shocking and shameful.

“Drug deaths are a national scandal in Scotland and our death rate is far and away the highest in Europe. Alcohol deaths are also at their highest since 2008 on the SNP’s watch.

“Third sector organisations play a hugely important role on the front line in supporting those who are suffering with drug and alcohol addiction and I praise all the work they do.

“It beggars belief that the SNP-Green Government have imposed these cuts on them given the horrendous situation facing us year-after-year when statistics are revealed in relation to deaths from drugs or alcohol.

“These cuts are further damning evidence that ministers have taken their eye off the ball – as Nicola Sturgeon once admitted she did – and have left these organisations to do their job with one hand tied behind their back.”

She also urged Ms Whitham to formally support the Tory Right to Recovery Bill which guarantees anyone requiring treatment for addiction has a right to access it.

Scottish Government funding for drug addiction services increased following a surge in deaths in 2020.

Funding in 2020/21 was £89.2m and £75.7m in 2019/20, according to the Scottish Government data.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “These claims are simply false and untrue. In 2022/23, a total of £106.8m was made available to alcohol and drugs partnerships.

“The actual allocation of £89.3m made to ADPs last year was agreed with local partners because health and social care partnerships were carrying reserves from previous years which were available to be spent.

“Our £250m National Mission on drugs is seeing more funding go to third sector grassroots organisations than ever before.

“In May, more than £15m was awarded to a range of projects supporting people affected by problem substance use.

“The National Mission funds have now supported 300 projects but we know there is much work still to do.

“These organisations save lives and we want to support them so they can extend as far into their communities as possible and offer people the support they need when and where they need it.”

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