Ruth Maguire MSP has welcomed the announcement that an additional £50 million will be allocated every year for the next five years to improve and increase services for people affected by drug addiction.

Talks have been taking place with people with lived experience, a range of organisations and the Drug Deaths Taskforce following the publication in December of statistics which showed that in 2019 there were 1,264 drug related deaths in Scotland.

In a statement to Parliament, the First Minister said a national mission was needed to turn things around.

She outlined a number of areas where improvements will be made and a further £5 million is being allocated in this financial year to ensure work starts immediately. These actions include:

  • substantially increasing the number of residential rehabilitation beds across the country
  • reducing stigma and increasing the number of people in treatment for their addiction  
  • allocating funding directly to Alcohol and Drug Partnerships, third sector and grassroots organisations to improve  work in communities
  • widening the distribution of naloxone
  • implementing new standards for medicine-assisted treatment to ensure equitable services for all drug users
  • reassessing how overdose prevention facilities might be established despite legal barriers

Speaking in response to the First Minister’s statement at the Scottish Parliament yesterday, the SNP MSP for Cunninghame South noted that some positive changes in drugs policy had been implemented as a result of the country’s response to the pandemic and asked if these gains for people in need of treatment would be maintained and expanded across the country. She said:

“The practice innovations enforced by our response to the pandemic, for example, people not requiring to attend a pharmacy to have their medicine consumption supervised illustrate clearly that where there’s the leadership, will and resource, culture and practice can be changed promptly and safely, even in large systems like our health service.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Some of the things that the pandemic forced us to do are changes that we should have made previously, forcing virtue out of necessity, and there’s no question that people have benefitted from some of the changes to previous practice that have been put in place because of Covid.

“Changes to pharmacy arrangements has meant that people who have been assessed as being able to not having to attend daily for medication assisted treatment, and that has proved highly effective. It’s reduced also some of the stigma that some people feel and it’s shown trust in people at the same time as reducing the risk of spreading Covid.

“I think it’s really important we retain this type of arrangement going forward and that we work with the leadership across health and with pharmacy colleagues in particular to make sure that we  learn from that experience and make the most of every opportunity to improve the services and care that is offered to people.”

Providing further comment, Ms Maguire said: ““I am encouraged by this strong statement from our First Minister along with the announcement of additional funding to halt Scotland’s Drug death crisis.

“The lives of  too many, friends, family members and neighbours in our communities have been lost, their lives mattered.  I welcome the action and investment that the Scottish Government is pledging and the cross party commitment to work together to halt this crisis.”

The First Minister’s full statement can be viewed online.

Ruth’s full question and response is available below: