Call for public inquiry into Scottish drug deaths

Nicola Sturgeon was today asked to launch a statutory public inquiry into drug deaths in Scotland.

Scottish Green MSP John Finnie has called for a public inquiry into drugs deaths

At First Minister's Questions, Green MSP John Finnie said the rising number of drugs deaths was a "public health crisis" which should trigger a public inquiry.

His demand comes a week after MPs on the Scottish Affairs Select Committee launched an inquiry into the toll of drugs deaths. Scotland saw a record 934 drug deaths in 2017, in comparison there were 146 road traffic deaths in the same year. It has been suggested that the figure for 2018 could be in excess of 1100 deaths.

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Mr Finnie, who is the Co-Convenor of the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Drug and Alcohol Misuse, said: “The current approach clearly isn't working. There were over 900 drug deaths in 2017. This is around eight times the EU average, and it is feared that the figure for 2018 will be even higher.

“Given the scale of this public health crisis, the Scottish Government must urgently hold a public inquiry and commit to acting on its findings in order to end this ongoing tragedy.“

The First Minister said the Scottish Government's national drug and alcohol strategy had set out a range of measures on treating harm and added: "I agree with the seriousness of this issue. I'm not immediately persuaded that [a public inquiry] would be the best way forward but we will consider any proposal.

"Any death from drugs is one too many. Of course many of the people we see dying are people who have lived with drug and alcohol use for a long time and become more vulnerable as they grow older. The 2018 drug death report showed fewer deaths in under 25s than the previous year, and recent reports highlight falling heroin use.

"There's no room for complacency. we want to look at different ways of addressing this issue. We want to treat these issues more as public health issues. We are prepared to consider any proposal that is made and I will do that with the one John Finnie has made today."