UK Government to hold Glasgow summit into drugs death `tragedy'

Scotland's drugs deaths tally have been described as a tragedyScotland's drugs deaths tally have been described as a tragedy
Scotland's drugs deaths tally have been described as a tragedy
The drugs death crisis in Scotland and across the wider UK will come under the spotlight at a major conference in Glasgow next month organised by the UK Government.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack welcomed the event and said Scotland's drugs deaths situation is a "tragedy." It comes after 2018 saw 1187 fatalities, the highest on record and a quarter of the UK level..

The summit will bring together drug recovery experts, health professionals, government ministers and senior police officers from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They will discuss how to work together to best prevent deaths related to drug misuse, which reached 4,265 across the UK in 2018.

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The Scottish Government has been calling for the introduction of consumption rooms where addicts can safely inject, but this has been rejected by UK ministers.

Mr Jack said: “The high numbers of lives lost to drugs in Scotland is a tragedy, a huge cause for concern.

“I am pleased that the UK Government is to bring experts together from all parts of the country, to share experience about tackling this terrible scourge.‎"

The event will also boost collaboration between the UK Government and the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations on this UK-wide issue with Professor Dame Carol Black, the independent reviewer of drugs, presenting her findings to the devolved administrations at the summit.

Kit Malthouse, the UK minister for Crime and policing will chair the event.

“People are dying from drugs every day across the UK, and this summit will bring us together to tackle the issue of drug misuse," he added.

“We must have firm enforcement action and do all we can on prevention, recovery and treatment too. I look forward to meeting key individuals from across the UK and listening to their views on addressing this challenge.”

Jo Churchill, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care, will also attend the event.

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Representatives from Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care will also be invited to attend, along with their counterparts from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The legal framework relating to the misuse of drugs is reserved for the UK Government, but the Scottish and Welsh governments and the Northern Ireland Executive have their own strategies to preventing the harms of drug misuse in areas where responsibility is devolved, including healthcare, criminal justice, housing, and education.

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “What Scotland faces in terms of drug deaths is nothing short of a public health emergency and we will engage constructively with any attempts to save lives.

“I have asked UK Government ministers repeatedly to meet to discuss this issue and to attend a summit we were organising. I was, therefore, very surprised that the UK Government announced a summit in Glasgow without any consultation with the Scottish Government and Glasgow.

“Regardless of how the UK Government have chosen to go about this, what really matters is reducing harm and saving lives. That’s why listening to, and engaging with, people with lived experience of drug use and those on the front line must be central to any summit.

“We will now, again, attempt to work with the UK Government to facilitate this.”