'Bold action needed to tackle Scotland's drug deaths emergency'

9 July 2019, 10:36 | Updated: 9 July 2019, 10:39

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Bold and innovative measures must be taken to address the drugs-related deaths emergency in Scotland, MPs will be told.

Speaking ahead of an appearance at Westminster's Scottish Affairs Committee on Tuesday, the Scottish Government's Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said that consideration must be given to any proposals which could help save lives.

Mr FitzPatrick reiterated calls for a drugs consumption facility to be established in Glasgow - a move supported by the Scottish Government, but which would require backing from Westminster to progress due to a change in the law being required to allow it to be set up.

"It is important that the impact of drug use is treated as a public health issue, and we are prepared to take innovative and bold measures in order to save the lives of those most at risk," said Mr FitzPatrick.

"I'm looking for the Scottish Affairs Committee's help in persuading the UK Government to either act now to allow for medically supervised safer consumption facilities, or to devolve the power to the Scottish Parliament so that we can act.

"These facilities are supported by strong evidence, and have been backed by experts and stakeholders. This has been further reinforced during the evidence sessions for the Committee's investigation into drug use."

MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee have been holding an inquiry into problem drug use in Scotland and have previously heard from charities and organisations that such a facility could bring public health benefits.

Last week, Martin Powell from the Transform Drug Policy Foundation told the Committee that a facility could potentially be piloted in order to explore whether it could prove to be beneficial.

Mr FitzPatrick also outlined the establishment of a taskforce to evaluate what legislative changes could be made in order to address problem drug use.

He said: "What Scotland faces in terms of drug-related deaths is an emergency, and this is why I am convening a taskforce to advise on what further changes, in practice or in law, could help save lives and reduce harm.

"I am very pleased Professor Catriona Matheson has agreed to head up this taskforce. She has a great deal of experience in this area, both through her role as trustee of the Society for the Study of Addiction and as convener of the Drugs Research Network Scotland.

"I want to ensure that the work of the taskforce is driven by strong evidence and the voices of those with experience of using drugs, and their families, are heard.

"I will give consideration to any proposals that may help to tackle this vitally important issue and, ultimately, save lives."