Nicola Sturgeon urged to declare public health emergency over Scots drugs deaths

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Nicola Sturgeon is being urged to declare a public health emergency and create a 
“minister for recovery” in her government to tackle Scotland’s drugs death crisis.

Addiction charity Favor UK is also calling for an increase in funding for treatment by more than a third after drug-related deaths in Scotland reached a record high of 1,187 last year.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

The charity, which helps addicts to get treatment, says a joint response from the government, charities, councils, the police and health boards is needed to make a real difference.

It will publish a flagship paper later this week setting out a series of key recommendations to tackle the issue.

But Favor UK chief executive Annemarie Ward, herself an addict who has gone through the recovery process, accused the Scottish Government of not doing enough to address the problem.

“It’s been months since the news broke that Scotland has the highest number of drug-related deaths in Europe and we’re not seeing enough action,” she said. “Our report will deliver a number of recommendations that the Scottish Government can take forward immediately.

“We are sick and tired of the drug deaths crisis being used as political football.

“We want to see action now before this appalling situation gets any worse.”

The charity’s report – called You Keep Talking, We Keep Dying – will be presented to public health minister Joe Fitzpatrick at an event in Glasgow on Friday. Tory public health spokeswoman Annie Wells welcomed the recommendations for the government, which also include setting up an advisory panel of former addicts who have gone through recovery.

“I broadly agree with the report and its approach of improving treatment and rehabilitation services as an urgent priority,” the Glasgow MSP said.

“We should be listening to what families and people on the frontline are saying.

“The report includes several serious and sensible recommendations that the Scottish Government should look to take forward immediately.

“We need to do more to tackle the drug deaths crisis today, not in three months or three years.”

Bob Doris, the Nationalist MSP for Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn, also backed the findings.

“I commend Favor UK for continuing to actively pursue action on the drug deaths crisis we face as a nation,” he said.

“I am sure that the Scottish Government will want to consider the report carefully given it has been drafted by those with both expertise and lived experience of the issues we face.

“I have already made a call for a lived experience panel to be established and for the Scottish Parliament to reach a budget consensus on funding of recovery services. This key recommendation can hopefully allow political parties the space to explore common ground in budget discussions.”