Drug death taskforce to meet for first time

A taskforce created to tackle the drug-death epidemic in Scotland is to meet for the first time today.

The taskforce was set up following increasing calls for the government to alter their stance on tackling drug use, with banners like the one above shown at a recent gathering held in Glasgow city centre for International Overdose Awareness Day.

The group, set up by the Scottish Government, will gather in Edinburgh on Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to reduce the record high level of drug-related deaths.

Made up of 23 people, including experts, charity representatives and one former addict, the taskforce will be chaired by Professor Catriona Matheson of the University of Stirling.

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The Scottish Government say the purpose of the group is to look at evidence about drug deaths, which reached 1,187 in 2018, and consider preventative measures, treatment options and the laws around drug use to see how to best tackle the public health crisis.

Speaking after the announcement of the taskforce's formation, Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: "What Scotland faces in terms of drug deaths is an emergency - addressing that will need new approaches even if at first they may be challenging.

"Our new taskforce has the desire and the experience required to tackle this problem and I look to them to help shape how services in Scotland could help save lives.

"Building on increases in funding in recent years, we're investing a further £20 million over the next two years to help deliver the proposals that come forward.

"We will also host a drug summit in Glasgow to further explore this issue, ensuring that the voices of those with experience of using drugs, and their families, are also heard. I've repeatedly invited the UK Government to attend this summit - I hope they will soon commit to doing so.

"There are no easy answers, but if we're to save lives we need a recognition that change is both necessary and, with the right support, achievable."

Professor Matheson added: "We have undertaken a lot of work to prepare for the first taskforce meeting so that we can hit the ground running.

"Having said that, the scale of the challenge is considerable and I appeal to the wider community to continue to be supportive to enable us to address together the tragedy of drug deaths affecting communities across Scotland.

"I am extremely heartened we have pulled together a strong team who have given their full commitment to the aims of the taskforce."