Nicola Sturgeon and Douglas Ross joint visit to drugs support group confirmed
A joint visit by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross to a drugs recovery group must be a “turning point” in tackling substance abuse, the head of the organisation has said.
Kenny Trainer, the founder of the Bluevale Community Club in Glasgow, insisted the visit by the two politicians “can’t be a one-off photo op”.
He spoke out as it was confirmed that Ms Sturgeon and Mr Ross will visit the group together on Monday November 22 – with Drugs minister Angela Constance also joining them.
The visit was arranged after exchanges between the SNP and Tory leaders at First Minister’s Questions in Holyrood last month.
Ms Sturgeon challenged the Conservative leader to visit a working-class area with her in the wake of the UK Government’s £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit, with Mr Ross agreeing to this – but also suggesting they visit the Bluevale Community Club in Glasgow’s Haghill area as he pushed for more action to tackle Scotland’s drugs problem.
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Scottish Conservatives confirmed the visit to the centre, which has operated a drugs recovery group since mid-2021, will go ahead later this month.
Mr Trainer said communities like his have “not yet seen the benefits of what Scotland’s politicians promised would be delivered on the ground, nor the support that our communities need”.
He added: “People in places like Haghill are mostly left to come up with solutions on our own.
“That’s why we started Bluevale Community Club. It’s a place run by local people for local people, so they get access to the support and services they need.”
Mr Trainer continued: “A visit with the First Minister and Opposition leader to a club like ours doesn’t happen often. But this can’t be a one-off photo op.
“This meeting has to be above party politics. It has to be a turning point that delivers a firm commitment towards changing things for the better.”
While he said his group has recently received some funding for its work, he added that “this is a drop in the ocean to what we need to continue to provide all of the services we offer”.
Stephen Wishart, a volunteer at the community club, said: “Bluevale does incredible work to give people mental and physical health services that they can’t access anywhere else.
“But groups like Bluevale are struggling to even exist at the moment. Many are run voluntarily with little to no money from the Government or council.
“There are enormous funding gaps in these community, recovery and addiction services in Scotland that need to be tackled.”
He added that the Right to Recovery Bill, being proposed by the Scottish Tories, would “cut through the current addiction system and mean places like Bluevale Community Club will get the right funding to help even more people”.
Meanwhile, Mr Ross said: “Bluevale is a perfect example of the kind of grassroots community project we should be throwing financial support behind across Scotland.
“These essential locally-run services can’t be left to fill in the gaps in Scotland’s system on their own.”
The Tory leader added: “Frontline experts back the Right to Recovery Bill because it would guarantee that everyone gets access to the treatment services they need to get their lives back on track, and whole system programmes like Bluevale would get the support they deserve to help people in our communities.
“We hope this visit can be a watershed moment that secures the Government’s support for our Right to Recovery Bill, but we will consider other solutions that the Government brings to the table too.”