Harrowing figures released by National Records of Scotland has revealed 1,264 people died in 2019 with causes linked to substances, three times higher than any EU country. The new statistics, a 6 percent increase on 2018, have been condemned by opposition figures as a “national disgrace” with the SNP now in the spotlight over the controversial decision.
Scottish Tory MSP Donald Cameron said: “These statistics are both dreadful and heartbreaking in equal measure.
“Every one of these deaths is a tragic loss of life that could have been avoided.”
David Liddell, chief executive officer of the Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “None of us should regard these preventable deaths as acceptable or as anything other than a national tragedy and disgrace.
“The need for change is obvious and that change is long overdue.
“Broadly, the challenge in terms of treatment is to ensure that people with a drug problem are treated with dignity and respect.”
Mr Liddell said the Scottish Government needed to increase the range of services which includes “drug consumption rooms, heroin-assisted treatment and assertive outreach.”
Fellow opposition parties have echoed calls for the issue to be moved higher up the political agenda.
Scottish Labour MSP Monica Lennon MSP said: “We can’t sweep this public health and human rights emergency under the carpet a moment longer.
Linda Holt, Fife Councillor and a candidate for George Galloway’s Alliance4Unity party said the drug problem was “embarrassing” in Scotland.
She said the SNP led Scottish Government were playing “constitutional games to ignore Scotland’s embarrassing drugs problem.”
She branded it a “massive healthy policy failure during 13 years of SNP rule”.
Concluding, Ms Holt questioned: “Are 1264 drug deaths last year the cost of the nationalists’ continued agitation for independence?”
The figures showed of those who died from taking drugs, nearly 7 in 10 were male while more than two-thirds were aged 35 – 54.
The majority of these occurred in Western Scotland with 404 in Greater Glasgow & Clyde alone.
Of recreational drugs, heroin and morphine were involved in more deaths than in any previous year, and contributed to over half of the total.
In response, Scotland’s public health minister Joe FitzPatrick argued the Scottish Government is doing “everything in its powers” to tackle rising drug deaths.
Nationalist ministers in Edinburgh have called on UK ministers to change legislation so overdose prevention centres can be established as quickly as possible to help curb the problem.
This could be done by “taking the necessary steps themselves” or by devolving powers to Scotland, they said.
But the Tories at Westminster argue the law is not so strict as to stop Scottish ministers doing more while the UK Government has previously resisted calls to change legislation as it argues it would not be beneficial.