Readers' Letters - It's time to decriminalise drug usage in Scotland

Every drug death is a tragedy and everyone agrees more needs to be done but middle-class outrage forgets that more people die every year in Scotland from alcohol and nicotine addiction. Also, prior to Covid more than 95 per cent of people started their first drug or alcohol treatment within three weeks of referral.

Last year saw the largest number of drug-related deaths in Scotland since records began in 1996

All political parties have contributed to the current situation as most of the drug-related deaths are long term users who became addicts up to 40 years ago when Thatcher’s austerity policies created high unemployment which drove thousands into poverty plus Labour’s policy of building bleak housing estates with few amenities and even fewer local jobs added to the sense of despair for those with no prospects of a better life.

Drugs policy is reserved to Westminster and the UK Government must help the Scottish Government’s attempt to apply a health approach by allowing supervised drug consumption rooms and the successful Portuguese decriminalisation of drugs.

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As proposed in a Lancet article two years ago, this could be done by declaring a health emergency in Scotland and granting Holyrood emergency powers to pilot these measures first.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh

National disgrace

The announcement of 1,339 deaths in 2020 due to drugs is nothing short of embarrassing and is a national disgrace.

It means we have to listen to the weasel words of the First Minister who has the gall to say that the government “does not shirk the responsibility” which is precisely what she and her government have done over the last 14years.

In a derisory attempt to justify any defence she goes on to say “the figures predate the actions it had taken at the start of the year”! This pathetic comment will provide no succour to those families bearing the loss of a loved one due to the shocking policies of this government.

To read that drug deaths in Scotland are the highest in Europe and three and a half times higher than that of England and Wales is humiliating and shameful.

This loss of life due to a domestic policy that is entirely the responsibility of the Scottish Government sits uncomfortably alongside its litany of domestic policy failures now becoming too long to list. It is perhaps but wishful thinking that this appalling announcement might just force this single-issue government to broaden its horizons and improve the health and daily lives of those it purportedly represents. However, I fear I and my fellow Scots will be disappointed.

Richard Allison, Edinburgh

Grow a spine

A hard-hitting editorial on the the tragedy of drug deaths (Scotsman, 31 July) quotes Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, saying he speaks for the nation when he says: "The drugs crisis is our national shame. It's a stain on Scotland that so many of our most vulnerable people have been left without hope, crushed by a system that is thoroughly broken.”

This is progress indeed when the Conservatives have reached a point whereby addiction is treated as an illness. What a positive change from the political party which used to describe addicts as a criminal underclass which should be dealt with using all the rigours of the law. Their proposed bill with an emphasis on recovery and apparently written by an SNP member is a welcome development and should be considered positively with a view to incorporating its elements into other planned harm reduction programmes.

Another piece of the jigsaw which Scottish Conservative MPs should adopt would be to put pressure on Westminster to allow the introduction of safe injection rooms, an initiative which has been successful in other countries, but not allowed by the UK government.

Will we now be treated to the sight of a shiver running along the Scottish Conservative benches in Westminster, looking for a spine to run up?

Gill Turner, Edinburgh

Give it a whirl

What the developers of the St James Quarter have mercifully avoided is to build a rectangular slab that punches brutally above the skyline. The previous St James Centre did that, as perhaps have some recent buildings in Liverpool.

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The whirl on top can be seen through scatological eyes or otherwise, and I look forward to Edinburgh adopting it with affection. It tickles the sky in a playful and modest way, acting as a marker for a light and airy shopping mall and a wonderfully restful outdoor space at St James Square. A great success.

Peter Lush, Edinburgh

Ban medal tables

I agree with Brian Wilson (Scotsman, 31 July) – the Olympics should ban anthems and medal tables (I would add flags to that as well). They should be about sporting excellence, and not sporting nationalism.

William Ballantine, Bo’ness, West Lothian

Defence jobs

Economic arguments for independence have been repeatedly blown out of the water, but Alister Jack (Scotsman, 29 July) dynamites the wreckage on the seabed.

He reveals that 23,000 jobs are directly dependent on the UK defence establishment, not to mention spin-off employment in other sectors. The 10,000 regular service personnel stationed in Scotland spend much of their income here. Taken out of the Union, we would automatically lose well over three times as many jobs as distilling provides; just imagine the fury if our "patriots" proposed shutting down the iconic whisky industry!

In 2014, there was talk of a puny Scottish self-defence force about 6,000-strong, with a handful of aircraft and ships. No way could this compensate for the loss of British military expenditure. Given the nationalists' anti-nuclear, pacifist ideology, it is unlikely that the Scottish Republic would be welcome in Nato, since removing Trident from Faslane would seriously weaken the alliance's response capabilities. The west's totalitarian enemies would indeed rejoice.

Let's hope, therefore, that the votes of the extra 1,700 submariners (and their families) soon to be redeployed to HM Naval Base Clyde will help expel the SNP from Argyll and Bute at the next election.

Martin O’Gorman, Edinburgh

Who knows

Mark Boyle’s statement that 4.6 million is the all-time lowest viewing figure a Doctor Who episode has received (Letters, 31 July) is wrong. The final part of the Colin Baker story The Mysterious Planet actually received 3.7 million views.

It is also worth pointing out that this unusually low figure is very much an abnormality in Jodie Whitaker’s run. Most of her other stories have received between five million and eight million views on average and, before you ask, yes this is similar to the viewing figures of her predecessor, Peter Capaldi.

John Shanks, Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire

Running wild

The BBC TV Scotland documentary Born To Be Wild exemplified the best Reithian values – ie it informed, educated and entertained. It simultaneously highlighted our stunning scenery and the dedicated 24/7 care at the SSPCA Wildlife Centre.

Alarm bells began to ring when, in between watching orphaned grey seals and oyster catchers recover, the programme lingered over the time and expense devoted to a group of fox cubs.This was not put in the context of the annual carnage they create among lambs, piglets, chickens, game birds etc.

As someone who has been a donor to the SSPCA for 40 years, I was horrified to learn that the staff were relieved to discover their five baby squirrels were red, as greys are humanely destroyed. This was significantly said with a soothing voice and almost glossed over. The SSPCA has denied this policy repeatedly in a long correspondence with me for many years.

The reason given was that the greys are non-native. Greys were introduced to Scotland in 1876 but the red is not native either.I t was introduced here from Scandinavia in 1793. The grey is a lovely sentient mammal and many children have learned to care for pet animals as they tended to a tame grey at the kitchen door. Feeding the greys in Dunfermline Glen has long been a joy.

The decline of the reds is mainly due, not to squirrel pox, but to the decline of coniferous woodland outwith Scotland and the increase of deciduous trees. The habitat of the red has been destroyed by agriculture, housing and industrial use. They are arboreal feeders. Greys have adapted to foraging on the ground, for example for unripened seeds which reds will not touch.

This policy by Scotland's pre-eminent animal protection charity is utterly shameful.

John V Lloyd, Inverkeithing, Fife

Gravy train

Being of similar vintage as John Henderson I too remember the "extreme weather events" he lists (Letters, 31 July). In the early 1960s I waded only ankle deep across the River Tay where previously it was a deep and dangerous spot.

Mr Henderson is correct about the escalating population. It is 7.9 billion now and is forecast to be 10.9 billion by 2100. There are 1.2 billion vehicles in the world and there will be 2 billion by 2035 yet the UK and Scottish governments want to spend trillions on Net Zero for our miniscule 1.13 per cent of global emissions.

Those who say that these extreme weather events are due to global warming caused by humans are mostly on the Climate Gravy Train so have a vested interest in keeping it on the rails.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated in numerous annual reports that it has low confidence that global warming had any impact on the frequency or severity of floods, that hurricanes, tornadoes and tropical storms show a decreasing trend and that droughts were less severe.

Clark Cross, Linlithgow. West Lothian

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