Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today submitted his party’s ten point plan for tackling drug and alcohol misuse to Health Secretary Jeane Freeman and Public Health minister Joe Fitzpatrick, as he warned that another decade of failure will not be tolerated in the wake of figures revealing Scotland now has the worst drug death rate in the developed world.
The 10-point plan calls for:
- A ministerial commitment to protect the budgets of alcohol and drug partnerships for the duration of the strategy, after the Scottish Government implemented a 20% cut to services in 2016/17;
- A ministerial commitment to cease sending people caught in possession of drugs for their own personal use to prison, as happens hundreds of times a year, and instead send them for treatment and education;
- An explanation of why drug treatment and testing orders, which the strategy says “can have a positive impact on both drug use and offending”, were only used 37 times in response to 3,600 convictions for possession in 2017/18;
- Local authorities to make licensing decisions based on venues’ efforts to keep their customers safe, instead of punishing them for incidents on their premises;
- The Scottish Government to back a regulated cannabis market, taking it out of the hands of criminals and tackling trends including increased potency which the strategy describes as “concerning”;
- The Scottish Government to establish proposals for a Scotland-wide network for the provision of heroin-assisted treatment, expanding on preliminary plans for a site in Glasgow;
- Drug-testing to be deployed at localities where there is a need, allowing at risk users to find out what is in a substance and offer advice on harm reduction.
- Adverse childhood experiences to be routinely recorded as recommended by Scottish Government advisor Sir Harry Burns;
- Additional action to address neonatal abstinence syndrome through support for expectant mothers;
- The minimum unit price of alcohol to be raised to 60p to meet the policy’s original ambition and account for inflation in the years that the policy’s implementation was delayed;
Mr Cole-Hamilton commented:
“The failure of Scotland’s last substance misuse strategy, cooked up as part of a budget deal between the SNP and Conservatives, can be measured in human lives. It has contributed to the crisis that has seen deaths reaching an all-time high. We have a rate of drugs deaths almost three times as high as it is in the rest of the UK. Another decade of failure on this scale cannot be tolerated.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats demand better. That’s why I have today submitted our proposals for tackling drug and alcohol misuse to the Scottish Government.
“These include a crystal-clear commitment to stop sending people caught in possession of drugs for their own personal use to prison. It makes sense to send them for treatment and education instead of somewhere like HMP Addiewell where one study found half of those released tested positive for drugs.
“Through a combination of pre-emptive measures and compassionate treatment Scotland can turn a corner, but it will take a Scottish Government prepared to show real ambition.”