Cole-Hamilton: Drug deaths will be FM's disgraceful legacy

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has called on the Scottish Government to take urgent and decisive action to combat drugs deaths on the eve of the publication of new figures revealing annual drugs deaths in Scotland.   

In 2019, Scotland recorded more than 1,000 drug-related deaths a year for the first time. In 2020, that figure shot up to 1,339, which was a new record high. The drugs death rate in Scotland is currently the highest in Europe.   

The Changing Lives Report, published by the Scottish Government’s drugs death taskforce last week, found that the current funding for drug and alcohol treatment is “woefully inadequate.”   

David Strang, the chairman of the report, said that major cultural change was necessary in Scotland’s approach to dealing with drugs deaths. This included removing stigma and discrimination around addiction.  

In total, the report made 20 recommendations and 139 action points it says will help reduce the number of drugs deaths in Scotland.  

Speaking ahead of the publication of annual drugs death figures, Mr Cole-Hamilton commented:  

 “Like many, I am dreading the publication of these figures. They are not just numbers. Each one represents a human tragedy and a family in mourning.  

“By the First Minister’s own admission, her government took their eye off the ball when it came to tackling drugs deaths.

"That admission was supposed to precede a change in approach but since then we have heard stories of drug projects struggling to support patients because they’re starved of funding, so much so that some are thinking about closing their doors. How can this be when we have the highest death rates in Europe? That’s a disgraceful legacy for the First Minister.

“I am calling on the Scottish Government to enact and accelerate the proposals of the Changing Lives Report.

“Rather than a government focused on a tone-deaf bid to break up the UK, we need one that is focused on water-tight solutions to the national shame that is our stubbornly high rate of drugs deaths. The time for action now.  

“Scottish Liberal Democrats will continue to press for radical action to help those most at risk, including the provision of heroin assisted treatment, ending the destructive use of imprisonment for people misusing drugs and instead diverting them to treatment and education and the decriminalisation of the possession of drugs for personal use."   

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