UK

Tory MSP urges PM to make Scots drugs deaths a priority

drug paraphernalia in Dennistoun (james Shaw)
Image caption In 2017, most drug-related deaths involved heroin but a large percentage had also taken pills

A Conservative MSP has urged Boris Johnson to make tackling Scotland’s record number of drugs deaths a priority.

Annie Wells has written to the prime minister asking him to hold a summit on the issue “as soon as possible”.

It comes after the UK government announced in October it would bring experts together in Glasgow before Christmas to discuss the issue.

However, it was postponed due to December’s snap general election.

Ms Wells called on both the UK and Scottish governments to place the issue at the top of their agendas and to put their political differences aside.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Annie Wells said she had lost a neighbour to drugs

She said: “I lost a neighbour. Across Scotland we lost 1,187 people in 2018, and I heard from so many families who lost loved ones in 2019.

“So I’ve asked the prime minister to make the drug deaths crisis his top priority in Scotland.

“This year we should be focused on saving lives instead of getting caught up in politics and the usual constitutional blame game.”

Scotland’s drugs deaths have been described as a “health emergency”.

Death rates are the worst in Europe, while Dundee has recorded the highest rate of drug-related deaths per 1,000 population of all council areas in Scotland.

The Scottish government said it planned to hold a summit on drug deaths at the start of 2020.

‘Outdated’

They said they had repeatedly invited the UK government to attend but that, to date, they had refused.

The Scottish government has been urging ministers at Westminster to change their approach on drugs misuse from a judicial matter to one of public health.

“We firmly believe the outdated Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 should be amended to allow us to implement a range of public health focused responses”, a Scottish government spokesman said.

“We have called on the UK government to amend the act or to devolve those powers to Scotland, and this must be part of any discussion we have.”

Image caption Naloxone is used as an antidote to overdoses of methadone, morphine and fentanyl

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said the number of drug deaths across the UK was “extremely concerning”, in particular the figures for Scotland.

She said improving access to treatments such as Naloxone – used to treat overdoses of methadone, morphine and fentanyl – was key.

She added: “We will continue to work with the Scottish government to tackle drug-misuse and harm and sustain our support for programmes which reduce the health-related harms of drugs, such widening the availability of Naloxone to prevent overdose deaths.”

Source: bbc.co.uk

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