Scottish Liberal Democrats have today called for the government to make a series of key reforms after a report published by the government’s drugs deaths taskforce found that the current funding for drug and alcohol treatment in Scotland is “woefully inadequate.”
The drugs death taskforce was set up in 2019 after Scotland recorded more than 1,000 drug-related deaths a year for the first time. In 2020, 1,339 died from a drug overdose, making the drugs death rate in Scotland the highest in Europe.
The taskforce has today published its Changing Lives Report, which makes a total of 20 recommendations and 139 action points it says will help reduce the number of drugs deaths in Scotland.
The report has criticised the funding allocated to drugs and alcohol treatment in Scotland, indicating that it represents just 0.8% of the health and sport budget. It states that current funding “is woefully inadequate for this level of public emergency" and warns that for meaningful change to be realised significant additional funding will be required.
Other recommendations included in the report are:
- Fully implementing new Medical Assisted Treatment (MAT) standards - relating to opioidreplacement drugs like methadone - across Scotland within two years.
- Developing an extensive Naloxone network.
- Better outreach after non-fatal overdoses.
Commenting on the report, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP said:
“This is a sensible and credible report from David Strang and his colleagues, who are to be commended. It also underlines the urgency of the situation and the need for the government to respond accordingly.
“To date the Scottish Government has been far better at talking than acting to prevent drugs deaths. It also needs to get serious about the resources needed to tackle this crisis
“Scottish Liberal Democrats have been pushing for radical reform for years. It is now time for the government to enact the proposals in the report and make long over-due reforms happen.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat drugs emergency spokesperson Ben Lawrie added:
“By the First Minister’s own admission, her government took their eye of the ball when it came to tackling drugs deaths. This report today spells out exactly how damaging that carelessness was.
“I hope this report will be the first step in a series of vitally necessary actions to help Scotland turn a corner in a devastating tragedy that has plagued it for far too long.
"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."