Nicola Sturgeon and Douglas Ross to visit treatment centre as poll suggests opposition to change in drug law

Nicola Sturgeon and Douglas Ross are set to visit a community centre which offers services to those recovering from drug addiction amid continued pressure to act around Scotland’s rising drug deaths.

The First Minister accepted the invitation of the Scottish Conservative leader after challenged to do so earlier this year, with the visit taking place at Bluevale Community Club in Glasgow.

During the visit, the SNP leader will announce almost £100,000 in additional funding for the club which will help support their work in the community and with those recovering from addiction.

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Ahead of the visit, Mr Ross said it was time for “action, not more empty words” and called on Ms Sturgeon to back the Scottish Conservative’s ‘Right to Recovery’ bill which would guarantee treatment for those who need it.

However, a poll has suggested that the public do not back recent changes to the way those caught with drugs are treated by the police, despite the move being viewed as a positive measure to tackle the fact that Scotland has one of the highest drug death rates in Europe.

In September, the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain said that police would have the option of issuing a warning for those who were discovered with Class A drugs such as cocaine.

A poll of 2,038 voters in Scotland for The Sunday Times by Panelbase showed that more than two thirds (69 per cent) of Scots believe this is the wrong move, instead backing a mandatory referral to prosecution for those caught with cocaine.

A quarter (24 per cent) backed police discretion, while eight per cent didn’t know.

A wreath depicting 1935, the number of drug overdose deaths in Scotland, is laid outside the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, to mark International Overdose Awareness Day in August

The opposition towards police warnings is higher for those caught with heroin, with 76 per cent against the move, 17 per cent in favour, and seven per cent saying they don’t know.

For ecstasy, the opposition was lower with 59 per cent favouring automatic prosecution, 32 per cent opposing it, and eight per cent saying don’t know.

The poll also shows backing for safe drug consumption rooms, with almost half of voters (49 per cent) backing the policy, with a third (29 per cent) opposing it.

Speaking prior to the visit, Douglas Ross said the drug deaths crisis which saw almost 1,300 people die due to drug misuse last year, “demands political leadership”.

He said: “Communities scarred by drugs need action, not more empty words. This visit must result in solutions, not more of the same.

"Frontline experts and families who have lost loved ones back our Right to Recovery bill. We need the government to come onboard.

"I want to directly appeal to Nicola Sturgeon - put the politics aside, back our bill, and let's finally give people in our communities hope that things will get better."

Announcing the £100,000 of funding to Bluevale, Nicola Sturgeon said the right of individuals to access treatment “underpins our national drugs strategy”.

She said: “The work being done by Bluevale Community Club in their local area helping people to live healthier lifestyles through their activity classes and recovery drop-ins is fantastic. It is an excellent example of how sustained, meaningful activities and supportive social networks are key to building stronger communities.

“The rights of individuals to access effective treatment and support underpins our national drugs strategy. But we know there is more to do to make these rights a reality which is why we launched the National Mission backed by an additional £250m over the next five years to improve and increase access to services for people affected by drug addiction – including an investment of £100m on residential rehabilitation.

“We are determined that every penny of that will make a difference to all those affected by this public health emergency.”

Bluevale founder and project manager Kenny Trainer welcomed the visit and the additional investment.

He said: “We now ask that all parties, and both governments, put their political differences aside and agree on how we can tackle Scotland’s problems not just at a national level, but locally – ensuring that any investment reaches the heart of our communities where it will make the biggest impact.

"We have seen too many friends and family members die while seeking access to the help they needed and that’s why we back any rights-based approach when it comes to drug treatment – one based on holding decision makers to account where necessary.”

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