To mark overdose awareness day, a memorial was held yesterday outside the Scottish Parliament, organised by campaigner Peter Krykant.
MSPs from across the chamber paid their respect. Edinburgh Western MSP and leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Alex Cole-Hamilton was one of the speakers. He remembered former colleague from his time as a youth worker, Graham, who died of a heroin overdose 8 years.
Official Scottish Government figures show 1339 deaths were caused by drugs in 2020, sadly a 5% increase from those lost in 2019. Scotland has the highest level of drug deaths in Europe.
Alex commented afterwards:
“Today’s memorial was very moving and I was glad to be asked to take part. For every one of the 1339 people who lost their lives because of drugs last year, each of them will have left behind grieving friends and family. The most tragic part of all is these deaths are preventable. The situation is far from acceptable and it has been clear for a long time that the model of the war on drugs is continuing to fail. It should not be a criminal justice issue, this should be treated as a public health issue.
“Earlier this year, and at the second attempt, we secured parliamentary support for the principle of decriminalisation. In June, Parliament then backed my request for the new Lord Advocate to get to work on this. Imprisonment for possession of drugs for personal use must cease. It is time for a change of policy for the prosecution authorities and the Lord Advocate to help establish heroin assisted treatment and safe consumption spaces.
“We need a new era of drug policy radicalism to finally turn the corner in the fight to save lives and ensure that people are helped and treated with compassion. We owe this to everyone who is currently struggling, to those who didn’t make it and to their families.”