New funds available in bid to tackle Scotland’s drugs crisis

Not-for-profit organisations can apply to access share of £18m aimed at supporting improvements to drugs services.

New funds available in bid to tackle Scotland’s drugs crisis Getty Images
More than 1200 people died in Scotland last year as a result of drug misuse.

Not-for-profit organisations can now apply to access four separate funds – worth a total of £18m – aimed at supporting improvements to the country’s drugs services.

The money is part of the additional £250m announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to tackle Scotland’s drug deaths emergency over the next five years.

Organisations working in the drugs sector, including integration authorities, alcohol and drug partnerships, third sector organisations and grassroots/community organisations can apply for a share of the £18m.

The Scottish Government says each scheme will run for five years, and multi-year funding will be available with grants awarded on a rolling basis.

Sturgeon said in January that more could and should have been done in recent years to stem the increase in drugs deaths – which rose to 1264 in 2019.

Sturgeon described the figures as a “national disgrace” and said it is a “reasonable criticism” to say the Scottish Government should have done more.

And during the STV News leaders’ debate ahead of the Holyrood election she said the SNP “took its eye off the ball” over drugs deaths.

Sturgeon said during the debate: “I take the view when politicians get things wrong, and we all get things wrong, it’s really important to face up to that, it’s important to recognise that and it’s important to set out what we do to fix that – that’s what I’ve done on drugs deaths, I’ve appointed a minister to lead forward that work and we are determined to turn that around.”

The political fallout from the release of the latest death figures saw public health minister Joe FitzPatrick resign.

Angela Constance was appointed as the minister responsible for drug policy as opposition MSPs ramped up calls for action.

Constance said on Friday the new funds will support the development of “consistent treatment standards around the country” and ensure more people can access drug support services.

She said: “These four funds will support the development of consistent treatment standards around the country and ensure more people can get access to services that can reduce harm, provide treatment and ultimately save their lives.

“We have said a national mission is needed to tackle the drug deaths emergency and this additional £250m over the next five years will improve and increase services for people affected by drug addiction.

“These funds make more resources available to community and third sector organisations and offer support to families affected by drug use.

“As I have said before, we are determined, as part of our national mission, to make sure that people can access whatever treatment is right for them in the right place at the right time.”

More than 1200 people died in Scotland last year as a result of drug misuse – the highest annual figure on record.

The total figure of 1264 is up 6% on the 1187 drugs-related deaths recorded in 2018.

It’s the worst rate in Europe and three-and-half times that of the UK as a whole in terms of the number of deaths per million people.

Nearly seven in every ten deaths in Scotland were men, while two-thirds were aged between 35 and 54 and more than half were linked to heroin and morphine.

More than 400 occurred in the Greater Glasgow health board area, with 163 in Lanarkshire, 155 in Lothian, 118 in Tayside and 108 in Ayrshire and Arran.

The funds open to applications are:

  • a £5m local support fund (previously referred to as a Communities Fund) to increase capacity in community and third sector organisations
  • a £5m improvement fund to improve outreach services, treatment, rehabilitation and aftercare, with dedicated support for women
  • a £3m families and children fund to support children, young people and families affected by drug use
  • a £5m recovery fund for additional residential rehabilitation capacity