Scotland's record on drug deaths 'wilful discrimination against a whole generation' claims Lib Dem
The Scottish Government’s record on drug deaths has been condemned as “wilful discrimination against a whole generation”.
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Edinburgh Southern Lib Dem candidate Fred Mackintosh told an online hustings “massive action” was required.
Latest figures show Scotland has the worst drugs death rate in Europe and the 1,264 toll for 2019 was double that in 2014. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recently acknowledged the government had taken its “eye off the ball” on the issue.
Mr Mackntosh said: “Some eye, some ball – the number of deaths in this country has been accelerating at a rate that is frankly obscene. It amounts to a wilful discrimination against a whole generation of young people, and older people now, particularly in our most deprived communities.
“We need to throw money at this problem in a serious way, we need to take real steps to introduce new and innovative ways of helping people get off drugs. This is a total failure by the current government. Massive action is required.”
Edinburgh Southern Labour candidate Daniel Johnson told the hustings, organised by Gorgie Dalry community council and covering Edinburgh Central and Edinburgh Southern, that Mr Mackintosh's comments were "absolutely right".
Mr Johnson said parts of England used measures which were not used in Scotland, such as police testing of drugs for their safety and diversion of drug users to rehab rather than being charged by police.
"They're using the same law but we don't have the same policing and prosecution policies here. We need to change this urgently now."
Miles Briggs, Conservative candidate for Edinburgh Southern, said he had campaigned to get ministers to declare a public emergency on the issue, but there had been no action for the first three years of the last parliament and £20 million had been cut from drug and alcohol services.
“I welcome the fact SNP ministers have now put forward £50 million a year to try to rebuild services.”
But he called for a comprehensive review of drug and treatment services and a “right to rehab”.
Edinburgh Central Green candidate Alison Johnstone said drug misuse was a public health issue, not a criminal justice matter.
"We want to ensure everyone has access to the treatment they need when they need it.”
She said Greens supported the introduction of safe consumption facilities and argued for drop-in services so help was available when people were ready to ask for it.
Angus Robertson, SNP candidate for Edinburgh Central, said he agreed with others that drug addiction should be treated as a health issue, not a criminal justice one.
And he said there was much cross-party consensus. He pointed to a study carried out by the Scottish affairs committee at Westminster on the issue.
“Its findings were rejected wholesale by the UK government because many of the powers required to deal with this challenge still rest at Westminster and that's extremely disappointing.
“We need new thinking on this and we need new thinking quick. The good news is a lot of groundwork has been done.”