Scotland's latest drug-deaths figures are as shocking as Scottish Government's lack of effective action – Scotsman comment

The average number of suspected drug deaths between March and May this year was 100 a month, new figures reveal

Earlier this month, the Scottish Government published a policy paper in which it called for the UK Government to either decriminalise drugs for personal supply or give it the powers to do so in order to tackle Scotland’s shocking drug-deaths rate. The idea was rejected within hours, as ministers surely knew it would be. The paper concluded by arguing that “independence or further devolution” would enable Scotland to introduce such a policy.

If there is a better example of misusing a most serious issue as a means to promote independence, it is hard to imagine. It borders on a grim self-parody of a government that – despite Nicola Sturgeon’s shocking admission in 2021 that her government took its “eye off the ball” over drug deaths – still only has eyes for constitutional matters.

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New figures provide a heartbreaking reminder of the potential human cost of such government failings. The average number of suspected drug deaths, based on provisional reports from the police, between March and May this year was 100 a month, virtually the same as the 102 a month during the same period last year.

A Scottish Government spokesperson agreed the drug-death rate “remains unacceptably high and every loss of life is a tragedy”, but added they could be “cautiously encouraged” by the “overall stabilisation” in the numbers. Given that in 2020, Scotland’s drug-death rate was about 3.6 times higher than the UK’s as a whole and a similar amount above Norway, the country with the second-highest drug-death rate in Europe, “stabilisation” should be nothing to be encouraged by.

Dr Susanna Galea-Singer, chair of the Addictions Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, said: “Once again, these alarming statistics prove that urgent action is needed now to halt the drug crisis in Scotland.” After years of rising drug-deaths, will this call for “urgent action” – the latest of many – once again fail to attract sufficient attention from ministers? Scotland needs a government committed to solving its problems – particularly when they are a matter of life and death – rather than one obsessed by the idea that independence is some kind of panacea.



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