Drugs Misuse

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:35 pm on 27th October 2004.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 2:35 pm, 27th October 2004

The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-1882, in the name of Cathy Jamieson, on tackling drugs misuse and protecting Scotland's communities. There are three amendments to the motion.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour 2:36 pm, 27th October 2004

Everyone in the chamber knows that drugs devastate communities. They blight the lives not only of those caught up in addiction but of everyone around them. They blight families, neighbours, streets and communities. Of course, some of our most disadvantaged communities face the harshest added burden of drugs and the blizzard of offending and antisocial behaviour that goes with them. Police officers throughout Scotland share that struggle, whether it is the daily challenge as drug-related offending ripples through neighbourhoods or the wider challenge of tracking and catching the drug barons who make money from misery.

The Government stands four-square behind those families, neighbours, streets and communities that face the daily reality of drugs and drug-related offending. We are on the side of law-abiding, hard-working people, who have the right to live without the fear of crime and the fear of being victims of drug-related offending. We are on the side of children and families who struggle every day to cope with addiction that threatens to harm them and tear them apart. We are on the side of the police officers who carry the front-line responsibility for preventing drugs from reaching our communities and for dealing with the offending behaviour that accompanies them. We are also on the side of those who are addicted. However, I will be clear that we are on the side of those who are addicted when they have made the choice to come off drugs, to stop committing crime and to live a drug-free, law-abiding life.

There are challenges that all of us must face. The criminal justice service's repeat offender is the health service's repeat patient and the community's repeat problem. In opening today's debate, I will set out the Executive's active commitment to tackling drugs misuse and making where we live safer.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I would like to make a few points before I take any interventions.

We must step up our action in four areas: enforcement, support for communities, intervention, and treatment and rehabilitation. On intervention and drugs offences, I make it clear at the beginning that we will make the hardest part of the sentence work hardest on the addiction. On treatment and rehabilitation, we must close the gaps between services and end the fractures between health and criminal justice provision.

I want to say something about action on enforcement. An estimated one third of all recorded crime in Scotland—from that of highly organised international gangs to that of the desperate who feed their addictions—is drug related. There are nearly 800 specific drug-related offences a week and that is just the tip of the iceberg, as that figure does not spell out the number of thefts, car crimes, burglaries or other antisocial crimes that come about as a result of drugs.

The police are vital in our efforts to combat Scotland's drug crime. They are our front-line response in preventing drugs from reaching our communities and they often face difficult and dangerous situations. We remain fully committed to providing police services with the support that they need.

Alongside Scottish police forces and other law enforcement agencies, the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency has already seized more class A drugs during the first half of 2004-05 than it seized in the whole of the previous year. The SDEA is also demonstrating its increasing ability to reduce the wider impact of serious and organised crime in our communities by identifying millions of pounds of criminal assets and cracking criminal and organised immigration networks.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

No. I want to move on.

We need to step up our action. We must ensure that Scotland has the structures and services in place to provide robust protection for our communities. A persuasive case has been made for a new multi-agency law enforcement campus at Gartcosh, which will bring together a centre of world excellence in law enforcement around an expanded SDEA. We have set aside resources to enable that to proceed. Again today, I am sending a clear, uncompromising message to drug traffickers and criminal networks alike: Scotland is not a soft target; they are not welcome in our communities and we will take action to stop their evil trade.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I really wish to move on.

Enforcement is critical, but we need to go further. We must also repair and strengthen communities, particularly those that face the hardest battles. Our proceeds of crime legislation is really beginning to bite where it hurts criminals most—in their pockets. We have pledged that assets that are recovered from the proceeds of crime in Scotland will be used by the Executive to repair some of the damage that has been done to the communities that have suffered most as a result of drug dealing and other serious crimes. Today, I am announcing a seized assets community fund. Starting from next April, the fund will be available to support, in part or in whole, initiatives that will repair and strengthen our most disadvantaged communities, which have been hit hardest by drugs. In the first instance, the fund will be available to local community safety partnerships for both revenue and capital initiatives that visibly and innovatively help those disadvantaged communities.

We must also help communities to help themselves. We must shift the siege mentality from the communities on to the dealers and suppliers. That is why I am also announcing a further drive against those who deal in and profit from misery. From early next year, we will work with and support Crimestoppers in a major initiative across Scotland's communities, strengthening our communities' resolve and encouraging local people to give information anonymously and in confidence, through Crimestoppers, to the police.

I am taking this opportunity to make a number of very important announcements for which people have been waiting for some time. We must break the cycle of drug addiction, offending and prison. We must stop that revolving door. If addiction is part of someone's offending, challenging that addiction must be part of their sentence. That is why we have introduced a series of innovative criminal justice interventions that are aimed at breaking that vicious circle.

Today, we are publishing further independent research, which has been carried out by the University of Stirling, that shows that criminal justice interventions work and that we are heading in the right direction. Despite having extensive prior criminal histories, almost half the offenders who completed a drug treatment and testing order had no further convictions within two years.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I am concerned about the incidence of drug misuse in prisons, especially in the open prison in my constituency. What kind of resourcing will the Scottish Prison Service have at its disposal to undertake genuine rehabilitation? That is of concern to every member of the Parliament.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

The member raises a serious issue. I will speak later about the range of measures that we need to have in place to tackle addiction. What we do about that in our prisons is critical, and I will make some mention of that.

Even among offenders who did not complete a DTTO, the level of reoffending was lower in the two years after the imposition of the order than in the two years before. That is encouraging, particularly given the fact that the offenders who were placed on DTTOs were prolific offenders who were responsible for repeated offending to feed their addiction. Funding is in place for courts throughout Scotland to have access to DTTOs by mid-2005 and I am pleased to confirm that the new schemes around the country are well advanced.

Nevertheless, we have to do more. We must treat and rehabilitate those who are in the grip of addiction. I want to nail a myth that keeps coming up: this is not about treatment versus rehabilitation; it is about treatment as well as rehabilitation. However, to treat and rehabilitate we need to improve greatly the way in which our services and interventions join together.

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

I am listening carefully to what the minister is saying. However, all the statistics show us that, for example, harm-reduction programmes have resulted in an escalating reliance on methadone scripts, at an increased cost to the Scottish Executive. No one disputes that. We know that the harm-reduction programmes are not leading to abstinence. Can the minister explain how she proposes to resolve that dilemma?

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

For the avoidance of doubt—and because Miss Goldie has heard me say some of this before—I have already indicated that despite some improvement in our services, there are still too many fractures between the health and criminal justice services through which addicts and offenders can fall. Despite many people's efforts, several of our local public sector organisations have different policies on the management and delivery of drug treatment services. Despite having taken major steps forward in providing treatment and rehabilitation services within prisons, for example, and in forging better links with community drug services, there is still too great a disconnection between what happens inside and outside prison and that cannot continue.

That is why during the next few months I will be working closely with my colleagues in the Scottish Executive Health Department to close those gaps, to better align our criminal justice, health treatment and rehabilitation services so that they fulfil our purpose, and to reach the goal that should be common to all services—to help people to get off drugs. I hope that that is clear.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

I am grateful to the minister for directly refuting Miss Goldie's point. Is the minister aware of the most recent national treatment outcome research study, which shows that for every £1 that is invested in treatment, £9.50—the figure is not £3 any more—is saved by reducing crime, the number of victims of crime and the health costs that arise as a consequence of people injecting drugs. That is the value of methadone and we have to shout about it.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

That is why local service providers must show further improvements in the quality, consistency, range and integration of services, with more focus on performance and outcomes, such as increased numbers of addicts entering and completing treatment, and reduced waiting times. I will negotiate those improvements with the drug action teams, and future funding will be linked to formal agreements with the Executive that are aimed at delivering improvements on the ground.

We have made solid progress on resources and on getting people into treatment. Since 2000, we have delivered a 59 per cent increase in the number of non-residential services and a 38 per cent increase in the number of residential services, including a doubling of the number of beds that are available for substance misuse cases.

There was a reduction in drug-related deaths in 2003. More than 12,600 new people attended drug services last year, which is about 1,000 more than in the previous year. I intend to build on that success in the years ahead and increase the numbers who are entering treatment year on year.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I support an increase in the provision of treatment and I have listened to what the minister has said. In the draft budget that has just been published, target 4 provides for only a 10 per cent increase in the number of drug misusers entering treatment by March 2008. I hope that the minister can assure us that she will be announcing more ambitious targets today.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I will move on to something related to that. Our partnership agreement promised a review of drug treatment and rehabilitation services and a pledge to provide additional resources for those services. My announcements today will deliver both.

Many drug users suffer from a range of long-standing problems that often underpin their drug addictions. Those can range from mental and physical illnesses, social and family problems, to financial and unemployment problems. That is why we needed a review. We need to have better integration of services and more consistent interventions. Those are two of the key outcomes from our review of treatment and rehabilitation services, a summary of which I am publishing today on the Executive's website.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

Mr Sheridan can contribute to the debate later. I must press on.

The review recommendations include stronger links between drug services, housing services and services for homeless people; stronger links between services that prepare recovered and recovering users for education, training and employment; timely access to appropriate services; and more consistent high-quality residential and community services operating to independently inspected standards of evidence-based care.

I stress that our ultimate aim is to help addicts to manage their chaotic lifestyle and move on to become drug free. We will act on those recommendations and work with other United Kingdom departments to update clinical guidelines on treating drug dependence. We will build national care standards. We will introduce external audits of services, building on local good practice. All that will be done within the scope of service-level agreements between the key players at local level and the Executive.

We have come a long way from when treatment services were concentrated on a few hospital beds that were used only for detoxification. Some of the drugs workers to whom I have spoken have commended the progress that we have made. However, there is still a distance to travel. We must and will do more. Our review showed that there are capacity problems in many services, which contribute to waiting times that are too long. That is why we will provide an additional £6 million per year to support drugs services. That money will bring direct investment to support national health service boards and local authorities to more than £32 million by 2006-07. That is an increase of more than 23 per cent from 2004-05. By 2006-07, our aim is to increase the number of people entering treatment to around 15,600 per year.

Protecting Scotland's communities rests at the heart of tackling drugs misuse. I want to talk about the children of addicted parents, who are vulnerable beyond tolerance. I want to tell them that they are not forgotten and that the Government is committed in thought and in deed to protecting them and to making their lives easier. That is why I am also publishing today the Executive's response to "Hidden Harm: Responding to the needs of children of problem drug users". That was a United Kingdom report, but we have elected to publish our own response to set out what we are doing to help those most vulnerable children. We will ensure that the drugs services and children's services work more closely together. I am not going to let this go—I am going to push and push until we get it right throughout Scotland so that everyone recognises what needs to be done and works together to do it.

I have not been able to touch on every aspect of the devastation that drugs bring, but I have set out the core of our commitment—enforcement, supporting families and communities, intervention, treatment and rehabilitation. We will work harder to get a grip on drug-related offending and to loosen the dealers' grip in our communities. We will provide addicts with the right services to make the right choices for themselves, their families and their communities. To do that, we must work more closely together throughout Government. That is why, as an Executive, we are doubling our efforts. Hugh Henry, who will close the debate this afternoon, will continue to co-ordinate the daily delivery of our drugs strategy, but I will now take the lead responsibility for co-ordination in the Cabinet and for the strategic direction of our policy.

Some people might look at the problem of drugs in our society as too difficult to handle or as a sign that something deeper is wrong with Scotland. I see it as the kind of problem that people elected us to fight. Of course addiction can be a living chaotic hell, but there is also hope, courage, determination and commitment in every battle and in every family afflicted by drugs. I hope that Parliament today will show unequivocally that we are on their side.

I move,

That the Parliament commends the Scottish Executive's integrated approach to reducing the supply of drugs and protecting communities from drug-related offending, improving education and information for young people about the risks from drugs and increasing the range and effectiveness of local drug treatment and rehabilitation services to help people to become free from drug dependence.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 2:53 pm, 27th October 2004

I will start on a consensual note: we share an ambition—throughout the chamber, I hope—to address the ill effects of addiction.

Addiction is a feature of human behaviour and, realistically, it cannot be eliminated. However, addictions can be benign or they can be harmful. When they cause harm to others, there is a role for society to act. When the harm is solely to the addict, it might seem that there is no duty to intervene. The defining characteristic of an addiction is that it removes choice from the addict. The addiction defines and dominates the plans, goals and future of an addict, rather than the characteristics of the individual as a human being that should be in control.

The minister used the phrase "chaotic lifestyle", as we all often do, to describe the lives of addicts. It has been put to me, and I have some sympathy with this, that that is an inaccurate description. The addict's lifestyle is chaotic for the rest of us, but the reality is that addicts are very organised and adept at managing their lives to get the next fix. The trick is to turn that organisational skill and that commitment to achievement into a commitment to get out of a life of addiction and crime.

We support measures to reduce the harmful effects of smoking by tobacco addicts; we are not talking only about the criminal justice system. The issue for addicts, tobacco addicts among others, is not just choice. The driver is addictive compulsion. Information is very important in understanding addiction. Some of the debate has already focused on whether appropriate information is available on the know the score website. We cannot know too much about drugs and about the ways in which people use them and seek to conceal their use.

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour

Stewart Stevenson claims that we cannot know enough about drugs. However, does he agree that some of the information that is available contains a great deal of harm? For example, on one top search engine, I found a cannabis cookbook, discovered how to grow cannabis or make LSD in my kitchen and was offered the complete guide to manufacturing ecstasy. I had only to push a button. Is it not about time that we worked with our UK colleagues to ensure that these sites are not accessible and do not put our young people in harm?

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

Duncan McNeil makes a fair point. However, as someone who has spent 30 years in technology, I have to say that in reality we cannot do what he suggests.

I want to focus briefly on the know the score website, which contains some information that has caused concern. I believe that if parents are informed about and understand how their children might operate within the drugs business, they can ensure that their children are safe. I suspect that we will hear more about that issue during the debate.

This debate focuses on the illegal misuse of drugs. I want to go to a high level and lay out what I think are the ultimate goals of a successful public policy. Such a policy would eliminate the ill effects of addiction on non-addicts and, in particular, would end offending behaviour. It would enable addicts to regain control of their lives away from addiction, prevent and inhibit the recruitment of new addicts, and end the misuse of drugs in our society. I suspect that we could all sign up to such a policy. As the saying goes, it is better to aim for an unattainable goal and fail than it is to aim for a mediocre achievement and succeed. However difficult things get—and they will get difficult—we must keep these distant goals at the forefront of our thinking and test all our plans to establish whether they move us forward towards them.

Is it worth the effort? Of course it is. Scotland has 50,000 heroin users and 43,000 people who might suffer from hepatitis C as a result of drug abuse. Partners, children and parents are damaged and in despair and a tidal wave of crime is blighting many of our poorest communities. This is a social exclusion issue par excellence. After all, heroin is the scourge of the most disadvantaged in our society.

Some have suggested that the NHS should provide pure heroin to all registered addicts. However, the Swiss experience suggests that that approach might benefit 5 per cent of users and might cost as much as 10 times more than other strategies. As a result, we do not accept that it would make a big difference.

A more fundamental point is that such an approach fails to acknowledge the circumstances in which 12 and 13-year-olds take up drug habits. They are recruited in a place called boredom. The spur is the repetitive tedium of the street corner. The cure is supported purposeful activity. Yesterday, I heard about the twilight basketball initiative, which has been organised by Scottish Sports Futures and has been successful in redirecting youngsters who might take up drugs.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

Earlier, Mr Stevenson mentioned heroin-assisted treatment. I do not know whether he attended the meeting of the cross-party group on drug and alcohol misuse at which we received an interesting presentation on that very matter from Switzerland. Am I right in thinking that the Scottish National Party's view now matches the outcome of the group's discussion that heroin-assisted treatment can act as a last resort when other treatments have failed?

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I want the minister and the Executive to undertake research to find out whether such an approach would work and provide a benefit in Scotland. The Swiss example has a different context. We must be careful not to act like a drowning man with a lifebelt and grab at solutions that seem to work elsewhere before we have established whether they will work here. However, I certainly do not discount that that could be something for future strategy.

Yesterday, Professor Neil McKeganey highlighted that drug treatment in prison has substantially less successful outcomes than has drug treatment in the community. Boredom in prisons fosters the use of drugs. Also yesterday, Clive Fairweather said that most of us would need something stronger than a Polo mint to survive a prison weekend. I think that I understood where he was coming from.

Prisons work well in keeping prisoners in, but the boundaries are porous. For example, tennis balls filled with heroin were thrown over the fence at Craiginches prison last week. The warders caught some, but others disappeared. Fifty vehicles a day enter Barlinnie prison, but Clive Fairweather tells me that it takes two days to search a single vehicle comprehensively. We cannot eliminate drugs from prisons, much as we might wish to do so. Therefore, we must consider whether we are doing the right things.

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The member has much experience from his own constituency of the drugs position in Peterhead prison. Does he feel, as I do, that there has been a deterioration in the management of drugs issues within prisons and, in fact, that there is a greater inability in the Prison Service to reform individuals' behaviour and their drug addiction because of the lack of intervention services within prisons?

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

My colleague makes a valid point. The cutting of prison governors' budgets by Prison Service management by 5 per cent a year is certainly making the job more difficult.

Today's announcements by the Executive have to be welcomed, by and large. However, there are difficulties that the Deputy Minister for Justice may care to address in summing up. Is the Executive taking over the role of directing and controlling the drug and alcohol action teams? There may well be a case for doing that, but the case should be made so that we understand what is happening. Gaps in service provision, particularly between prison and community, are of concern. Typically, when someone comes out of prison, they go straight back to drugs because they cannot get on a community programme.

Let me make some comments about the Executive's current targets. We talked about a 10 per cent increase in the number of addicts entering treatment and about £1 saving £3 and perhaps £9, but the reality is that the drugs problem in Scotland may cost us £1 billion a year. However, none of the budget's 12 priorities for NHS Scotland says anything on drugs. Today's announcement may move us forward in that. We are looking for an increase in the disruption of criminal networks, but we have abandoned specific targets for the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency.

So what are some of the things that the Executive might care to do? One is to end the scandal of addicts being parked for years on methadone programmes. That is one of the big sources of criticism of methadone. Too many people who get on the programme do not get looked at further. The Executive could consider the New Jersey model in which a drugs counsellor is attached to every addict throughout their history, with the funds to address their addictive behaviour.

Our amendments do not commend the Executive; we merely agree with the Executive. It must do more to earn our commendation. We stress the need for programmes to be available when people need them. That disnae mean on their first day, but it should be within a period rather less than the existing six months.

I move amendment S2M-1882.1, to leave out from "commends" to end and insert:

"agrees that an integrated approach to reducing the supply of drugs, protecting communities from drug-related offending and improving education and information about the risks from drugs is required and that this must provide an increased range and effectiveness of local drug treatment and rehabilitation services to help people to become free from drug dependence which is available at the time each service user takes the step of acknowledging the need for help."

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Before I call Annabel Goldie, I ask members to check that all mobile phones and pagers are switched off.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

On that matter, Presiding Officer, the problem is not just interference on the microphones. There is a terrible echo when members are speaking, which makes it difficult to pick up what is being said.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

Yes, that is being investigated. However, I was asking members to double-check that all devices were switched off.

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative 3:04 pm, 27th October 2004

I propose to break with convention and go straight to the amendment in my name, which would, in effect, strike out the Executive motion because it seeks to tell the story as it is. However, I do not seek to diminish the excellent work—indeed, I pay tribute to it—that is being done by many dedicated men and women throughout Scotland as they struggle to make a contribution to the fight against the awesome and, from the evidence, overwhelming challenge of drug abuse in Scotland.

Although the evidence of what is now a modern-day plague blighting Scotland is frightening, it also commands attention. In 2003, more than 40,000 drug-related crimes were recorded—that represents a 38 per cent increase since 1997, or a drug-related crime every 12 minutes. In 2003, tragically, there were 317 drug-related deaths, which was an increase of 41 per cent since 1997.

As we know to our great concern from a recent BBC "Frontline Scotland" programme, our prisons seem to be awash with drugs. One prisoner commented that it was easier to get drugs inside the prison than outside. Another prisoner indicated that, in his hall, he could get drugs within five minutes.

In answers to parliamentary questions that I lodged, we have seen the appalling revelation—if I may describe it as such—that methadone prescriptions are increasing relentlessly year on year. In 1997, more than 168,000 prescriptions were issued, at a cost of £1.5 million. In the year to 31 March 2004, that figure had risen to nearly 400,000 prescriptions, at an estimated cost of nearly £4.5 million. At that rate, we shall be getting close to 800,000 prescriptions by 2010, at an estimated cost of nearly £9 million a year.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

Could Annabel Goldie use the rest of her speech to explain whether she would remove the availability of methadone for those to whom it is currently available?

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

I shall come to that point in my speech.

The projection that I have just outlined is terrifying, because it envisages a Scotland paralysed by drug abuse, with increasing numbers of desperate souls parked in the dismal and imprisoning cul-de-sac of methadone dependence. In other words, it is a publicly funded, legalised drug-addiction programme. The tragedy is that the more money we spend on legalised drug addiction, the less we have to spend on rehabilitation. What the Executive has announced today is worthy in its own right, but it is nowhere near enough, because according to the available statistics we are on a disaster course.

We are on a disaster course because the Scottish Executive has been scared to give political leadership. It seems to have been embarrassed about looking uncool. It has been wooed by politically correct trendies and has presided over confusion and escalating drug-abuse chaos. If anyone disputes that, let us look again at the evidence. The Scottish Executive does not believe in a drugs-free Scotland; it has never supported that vision. The Executive may have its own reasons for adopting that stance, but that is its view. I listened with interest to the Minister for Justice's comments about tolerance and abstinence, and I have to say that I think that that is the first time that I have heard such views articulated by the Executive in this chamber.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

Does Miss Goldie accept that I outlined very clearly today the fact that I want a situation in which our communities are not blighted by drugs, in which we stop the supply of drugs getting on to our streets and in which we deal with people who have an addiction problem, get them off drugs and allow them to return to productive lifestyles? I do not see what is unclear about the Executive's viewpoint on that.

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

My point is that that is a very recent statement of a somewhat altered position. To that extent, it is welcome.

I have to say, in relation to the evidence of what the Scottish Executive has been presiding over, that our prisons are awash with drugs. An estimated 60 to 70 per cent of prisoners are addicted. What is the response? To give heroin injection kits to prisoners. That beggars belief, and the Scottish Executive, whether it likes it or not, is in charge.

What about our young people? They seek guidance, their parents seek support, and what does the Scottish Executive offer? Know the score—a publicly funded, explicit guide to illegal substances and how to use them.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

That is an absolute travesty. Will Miss Goldie give way?

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

I have asked Miss Goldie to attend the cross-party group on drug and alcohol misuse, but she has never come.

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

I ask Mr Raffan to go and look at the know the score website for himself. It provides an illustration of how to hide ecstasy tablets in a cigarette lighter. The Scottish Executive

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

I have taken enough interventions and I wish to continue with my speech.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

She is afraid to allow interventions.

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

The website is the Scottish Executive conniving at telling young people how to hide drugs from their parents and from the police. It is the Executive's do-it-yourself manual on how to end up in trouble if one is not already in it, and it should be more aptly entitled, "Know how to Score". It is a disgrace and the Executive should withdraw it immediately. We are running out of time and a radical change in approach is needed.

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

I have been generous in taking interventions and I wish to continue with my speech.

We should not be too proud or too uninterested to consider other countries. Twenty years ago, Sweden, for example, was roughly where we are now. Against all the odds, Sweden changed from a permissive tolerance of drugs to a controlled, restrictive and legally enforced approach that was based on education and rehabilitation, not on harm reduction. The results were obvious.

I was asked earlier whether my party supported the complete withdrawal of methadone. No, we do not. What we argue for is a switch from a harm-reduction policy, which is the Executive's stated position—

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

It certainly is, and the statistics prove it. We should switch from that policy to a zero-tolerance approach and abstinence. That is why my party—unlike the Executive—has a strategy for a drugs-free Scotland. That strategy includes zero tolerance of drugs; reclassifying cannabis to class B; early intervention and education to prevent the problem in the first place; improved availability of drug treatment and testing orders for offenders who come before the district courts and, if necessary, the children's panels; and giving convicted offenders a clear choice between rehabilitation and jail.

We have to eradicate drugs from prisons, we have to improve prison rehabilitation, and we have to link that work with support on release. We have to ensure that, if drug dealers are found, charged and prosecuted, that is done on indictment at the very least, to ensure appropriate sentencing.

Drug abuse threatens the very fabric of our society. It destroys lives, it tears families apart and it leads to widespread and recurring crime and to the disintegration of entire communities. It is essential that we use all the resources of the state not only to discourage drug abuse but to do everything possible to eliminate it. That is why I have lodged the amendment in my name.

I move amendment S2M-1882.2, to leave out from "commends" to end and insert:

"deplores the escalating drugs abuse problem in Scotland and the implicit reliance on methadone harm reduction programmes and calls for a radical change in policy to reduce demand for drugs by providing a route to abstinence and taking more effective action to cut the supply of drugs."

Photo of Ms Rosemary Byrne Ms Rosemary Byrne SSP 3:12 pm, 27th October 2004

I welcome today's debate. The Scottish Socialist Party has campaigned consistently for a radical approach to drug treatment—an approach that recognises that we are not winning the war on drugs.

I was pleased to hear Cathy Jamieson acknowledge community struggles and the problems that families face with drug abuse; that acknowledgement will be key to moving forward. However, the motion is written in the self-congratulating Scottish Executive house style and it refuses even to begin to acknowledge the scale of the problem of drug misuse in Scotland.

Of all the countries in Europe that can afford to be self-satisfied and smug because they are making serious inroads into the problem of drug misuse, Scotland is not one. In 2003-04, 12,657 new individuals were reported to the Scottish drug misuse database—an increase of nearly 1,000 individuals, or 8 per cent, on the 2002-03 figure of 11,691. In the five years since 1999-2000, there has been an increase of 21 per cent in the number of new individuals reported to the SDMD—from 10,346 in 1999-2000 to 12,657 in 2003-04. The corresponding rate increase is from 214 per 100,000 of population to 267 per 100,000. Those figures are huge, and they cover only those who come forward for treatment.

At the end of May this year, the Edinburgh Evening News carried an article on police fears of a new heroin epidemic in Edinburgh. The article said:

"With supplies flooding into the city—and prices at an all-time low—heroin is once again gaining a stranglehold in areas such as Muirhouse, Pilton and Sighthill, and is becoming easily available to a whole new generation of young people."

That story is reflected in communities across Scotland.

Drug and mental health problems are rife among the inmates of Scotland's only women's jail. A report by the chief inspector of prisons, Andrew McLellan, says that nine out of 10 women who are admitted to Cornton Vale prison, near Stirling, have addiction problems.

Although the problem is long term, every drugs project in Scotland has workers who are on contracts of between one and three years. I was disappointed that Cathy Jamieson did not make an announcement about improving that situation. We are losing the best drugs workers because no one who is on a contract of one, two or three years can plan for a long-term vocation. I would like the minister to respond on that extremely important issue.

I welcome extra funding, but I ask the minister to give assurances that services will be joined up and fully integrated. Cathy Jamieson has said that that will happen, but although there are numerous funding streams that provide resources, such provision is often not integrated, in spite of the DAATs' co-ordinating role. I want there to be a full review of the DAATs' role, so that we can move forward and join up services.

An area can receive funding through social inclusion partnerships, better neighbourhood services funding, tackling drug misuse funding, health agencies and local authorities. In one town in the south of Scotland, all those funding streams resulted in a disjointed service. The situation became so ludicrous that drugs workers who received better neighbourhood services funding had no base from which to work. The town was overwhelmed by a whole lot of workers, even though there was no suitable facility for them to use and no joined-up planning had been done. A community-based rehabilitation facility could have joined together all those services and agencies. Money that should have been used for drug treatment and support was diverted to another area in the community and resources for fighting drugs problems were lost. That goes on all the time. People campaign for community-based rehab but the money is spent on workers and projects that are not joined up, with the result that we lose out.

Approximately 19,000 people use needle exchange in Glasgow. How do we tackle the problem of their need to get street heroin? Cathy Jamieson did not mention that issue—what does she suggest? I welcome the increase in safe injecting that needle exchange and other safety measures have achieved, but we must engage with such groups and bring services to them.

It is crucial that we engage with groups that are not receiving any support. We have all heard, only too often, of the clean-up of needles in our communities. That is a sure indication of the extent of the problem of users putting themselves at risk by not using needle exchanges. There is a need for outreach work to begin to engage with such groups to bring them appropriate services. That outreach work also needs to extend to our smaller towns. In Irvine, injecting was taking place along a route that the community used to get to the town centre. That area has recently been cleared and the group has moved on, but there is no support for its members. We need to engage with them and provide them with services.

It is crucial, too, that support should be provided for new training and treatment opportunities as soon as possible after people have accessed services. The new futures fund should be continued and expanded. It is estimated that 56,000 people in Scotland have drugs problems. If those people are to be given enough hope for the future, they must be able to see a way out.

Two years into a four-year project, the national treatment outcomes research study in England found that the provision of a range of residential and community treatment programmes meant that crime costs fell by £16.1 million during the first year and by £11.3 million during the second year.

The data show that treating drug misusers in England has had clear economic benefits.

Photo of Ms Rosemary Byrne Ms Rosemary Byrne SSP

We are all well aware of the impact that drug misuse has on families. According to recent estimates, between 41,000 and 59,000 children in Scotland have a problem with a drug-using parent. We must protect those children.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

You are over time. Can you finish quickly?

Photo of Ms Rosemary Byrne Ms Rosemary Byrne SSP

I cannot see the clock from here; that is the problem.

Photo of Ms Rosemary Byrne Ms Rosemary Byrne SSP

We must ensure that we protect and support those families that are looking after the children of drug misusers. I would have liked the minister to have spoken about kinship care and about how to provide joined-up services across the country and a national strategy to support those families.

I move amendment S2M-1882.3, to leave out from "commends" to end and insert:

"views with concern the growing problem in our communities due to drug misuse; views the current provision for drug treatment and support as entirely inadequate, and urges the Scottish Executive to work with all agencies with a view to integrating services and ensuring full resourcing allowing a range of appropriate services across communities."

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat 3:19 pm, 27th October 2004

This is an important debate. The negative impacts of drug misuse affect every community and every family in Scotland. Drug users, their children, their families and the communities that suffer as a result of drug-related crime all feel the effects of drug misuse.

Drug misuse, which is a blight on our country, is a complex issue that requires proper research and resourcing. It also needs a proper response from politicians and not the outrageous allegations that we heard from Annabel Goldie.

In the face of increased drug misuse, we need to educate children and parents about drugs; to do otherwise would be an abdication of duty by this or any Government. I welcome the minister's statement and the result of the Executive review of drug treatment and rehabilitation services.

The Liberal Democrats feel that a flexible, person-centred approach needs to be taken to the treatment and rehabilitation of each individual. We need greater integration of the funding streams and services, including health, criminal justice, education, housing and, crucially, family services. We agree that it is necessary to improve the patchwork provision of care and treatment that is available across the country: to do so would mean that not only the people in our cities, but all those who are in need, would have access to proper treatment. It is also crucial that a range of services and options is made available to users.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

I take the point that Margaret Smith makes about the integration of services and the need to ensure that different agencies work together. Does she accept that one of the key groups that we are currently failing is that of the ex-prisoner? I am thinking of the break between the treatment that offenders receive in prison and that which is available in the community. Does she agree that the integration about which she spoke needs to be put in place so that prison-based services are integrated with those in the community?

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat

The minister has saved the chamber from having to listen to part of my speech—that is in paragraph 16. That said, I agree with him absolutely.

Recently, I visited Saughton prison and spoke to inmates, one of whom told me that things were improving. He told me that he had been in Saughton before and that, on his release, he had had to go for about a month before anyone had helped him. All the good work that had been done in prison, albeit that it was done in an artificial set-up, was lost when he was released. I say "artificial" because other members have spoken about the greater effectiveness of community-based programmes. In the month after that prisoner's release, instead of being re-integrated into the community, he did exactly what we would expect him to do in the circumstances—he offended again to feed his habit.

The important factor in this and many other issues is the need to work for better integration between the services that are available to people in prison and those that they can access in the community after their release. That means the involvement not only of Scottish Prison Service personnel, but of those in the voluntary sector and elsewhere who work in prison or the community.

As I said, the Liberal Democrats agree that it is necessary to improve the patchwork nature of provision. It is important that a range of services and options is available to users. For some, that will mean abstinence—about which some interesting studies have been done—but for many others it will mean methadone. The decision on treatment options is first and foremost one for the clinicians who work with the individual user and not for the politicians. However, we must look carefully at the results of programmes and evaluate them to ensure that we are following best practice. I will focus most of the rest of my comments on the impact that drugs have on the criminal justice system; my colleague Keith Raffan will touch on health issues.

Drugs have a massive impact on our criminal justice system and our communities. In 2003, more than 40,000 drug-related offences were recorded in Scotland. In common with many colleagues, I have spoken to offenders inside and outside of prison. Their lives, their families' lives and their communities' lives, as well as those of everybody else with whom they come into contact, are devastated by the effect of drugs. It is a sheer waste for our country that we do not tackle drug misuse properly.

The Scottish Executive has done a lot of good work, including the setting up of the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency. I pay tribute to the men and women who work in it. I also pay tribute to those in our other law enforcement agencies for the work that they do in seizing even greater amounts of class A drugs. I welcome the clear message that the minister gave today on enforcement. I also welcome the setting up of the drugs courts and the greater use of drug treatment and testing orders, which are an acknowledgment that a range of different disposals is needed if we are to deal with the problem.

During the summer recess, Mike Pringle and I visited the drug treatment and testing order project in Edinburgh. We spoke to criminal justice social workers and medical and nursing staff, as well as to many of the offenders on the programme. One of the offenders asked whether I knew Cathy Jamieson. For a moment, I almost said, "No" but I had to say that I did. When the offenders heard that, many of them asked me to tell her that the programme was working for them. They said that they were engaged in a programme that gave them a dialogue with the people who were working with them, whether in the judiciary, social workers, doctors or nurses.

The result of such projects is that we are reaping the benefits, not only for the offenders but for society as a whole, because we are seeing reduced rates of reoffending. The projects are not an easy option. People are tested twice a week, and have to go back every month for review before a sheriff. The projects are highly intensive, not only for the offender, but for the judiciary and staff involved. However, all the people to whom I have spoken say that they have a big part to play in what we are tying to do. They are intensive, but they are worth while. They are not for everyone. Crucially, people have to want to get off drugs. Involvement with the projects has to be consensual. One cannot say to somebody, "You're either going to prison or you're going on that programme." Somebody has to say, "I want to get off drugs. I want to make this work." If they do not want to make it work, it will not work.

Research shows that such projects have a part to play, but they also represent another example of multi-agency working, which is a key factor in reducing reoffending; we have already touched on that. I welcome the work that has been done by the Scottish Prison Service in conjunction with voluntary sector partners to tackle drug misuse.

The minister must address a number of issues in relation to the continued misuse of drugs in prison, to which many colleagues have alluded. We need to focus on rehabilitation in prison, because the results are not good enough. We must also examine the part that is played by random drug tests in prisons—and the perverse incentive to go on to heroin, which is cleared out of the system more quickly than cannabis is—the impact that continuing drug use has on family visits, and the importance of visits in prison.

The minister's announcement today will support Scotland's communities and those who are addicted to drugs, and improve the criminal justice system. I hope that Parliament will support her.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green 3:27 pm, 27th October 2004

I welcome the debate, but while it represents an important opportunity to address an issue that damages severely the lives of many Scots, I regret that we are debating it in the context of justice policy. The Scottish Green Party regards drugs principally as a health issue, and the victims of addiction and substance misuse as people who are in a health crisis, rather than as criminals.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

If Hugh Henry allows me to expand on the point, I will come back to him.

When people commit crimes, it is the root cause of their addiction or drug misuse that should be addressed. Prison is by no means the place in which to do that. In that respect, I acknowledge and praise the Executive's desire to improve the links between criminal justice and health services, and to give addicts the opportunity to better their lives, instead of sending them to prison.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

I note Patrick Harvie's point that drugs misuse should be seen as a health issue, rather than a justice issue. Will he explain which part of the health service should deal with tackling drug dealers?

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I said that the victims of addiction and substance misuse should be dealt with as being in health crisis. The issues are health issues, not justice issues, therefore drugs legislation should be dealt with in this Parliament.

We should begin with a thorough overhaul of our outdated laws, and move away from criminalisation. If addiction is first and foremost a health issue, it is wrong to criminalise its victims—not the suppliers, the victims—for the health problems that they develop.

Criminalisation forces us to persist with the notion that there are good drugs and bad drugs. Someone who occasionally uses cannabis recreationally with no consequent problems is a criminal, while someone whose drug of choice is alcohol is not, even if they seriously abuse it.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

I am sorry, but I have to move on.

I do not believe that a drugs policy that is based on such extraordinary doublethink can ever gain the respect that is required of the people whose behaviour we seek to change. Worse, the current criminalisation approach can make problems worse. I remember Margaret Thatcher, of all people, explaining its shortcomings.

We have a huge industry—a global, illegal, powerful and resourceful industry. By keeping its customers locked into their dependence on criminal suppliers, we ensure that the industry operates with the lowest possible regard for ethical norms. By disrupting the production or supply of specific substances, we raise the price, and, by raising the price, we make other sources of supply and production more commercially viable than they were before, so supply rises again and cost falls.

The alternative to that approach is often misrepresented as ambivalence or disregard, but we do not propose inaction.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

In the absence of any heading on justice in the Scottish Green Party's 2003 election manifesto, can Patrick Harvie tell us on what justice proposals of any kind his party fought that election?

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

Our full policy was available to anyone who asked for it and our drugs leaflet was available on every stall that distributed our manifesto. I am happy to send Stewart Stevenson a copy of it.

We propose and offer our support for many of the same actions to which the Executive is committed, but we believe that those actions will be more effective for the victims of addiction and the victims of drug-related crime if the context is changed. Ceasing to criminalise people for possession and ceasing to force addicts into the hands of criminal suppliers would present us with the opportunity to identify everyone with a drug problem, not only those who commit crimes and get caught and convicted. The minister implicitly acknowledged that point in her discussion of the drug-related prosecution statistics.

If our ambition for the victims of addiction is that they break free of their addictions and end the pain from which they, their families and their communities suffer, we must ensure that those who will find a source of supply whatever we do have access to a source that will not sell them adulterated substances and will not exploit them further or push them towards crime, prostitution or ever-more dangerous substances, but will give them access to the information that they need and a direct route into support services to help them to quit or reduce their dependence gradually over time. It is crucial that they have access to the supportive therapy, such as counselling, that is necessary to deal with the emotional and psychological factors that underlie their self-destructive behaviour.

It is almost an article of faith to me, as someone with a background in counselling, that all human behaviour, including destructive and self-destructive behaviour, is purposeful, but the minister and Annabel Goldie fail to recognise that fact. The minister said that the Executive is on the side of drug users provided that they make the choice to give up, but in reality, those drug users who do not have the strength or emotional capacity to make that choice are the ones who need help the most. It is not enough to challenge addiction; understanding and support are needed if people are to gain the ability to free themselves of addiction. No one else can do it for them.

Photo of Mary Mulligan Mary Mulligan Labour 3:33 pm, 27th October 2004

I welcome the Minister for Justice's statement. I very much welcome her announcement of the seized assets community fund and know of a number of community groups, particularly one that supports families in the Armadale area of my constituency, that would be prime candidates for such funding. Perhaps I will speak to her about that later.

I acknowledge that the minister has accepted that there are certain gaps in the service and welcome her commitment to address some of them. Like Margaret Smith, I was recently told of a situation in which prisoners who had been going through a rehabilitation programme were released from prison on a Friday evening but could not make contact with the support services in the community until the following Monday. That is not the month-long gap to which Margaret Smith referred, but it is a long enough period for somebody in such difficult circumstances to find that they are vulnerable and be tempted to go back on the good progress that they have made, so it would be beneficial to address small gaps like that.

I support the work that is being done for the children of drug-abusing parents. We are all aware of the difficulties that some agencies have had in coming together to deal with issues. However, progress has been made, and I welcome the minister's commitment to make further progress.

The minister covered the importance of stopping drugs reaching our communities, and I support that. I am aware that the police work closely with others, in particular customs officers, to prevent drugs from hitting our streets, but perhaps we should consider the step before that: production. What discussions, if any, has the minister had with Westminster colleagues about approaches to other Governments about production?

A number of constituents of mine recently returned from a visit to Afghanistan and informed me of the increase in poppy production there—I am sure that other members are equally aware of that. We all know that Afghanistan has come through a turbulent period. Although the recent elections there are welcome, no one can say that life is yet easy for the people of Afghanistan or for their new Government. However, we cannot allow the huge increase in the poppy crop to go unchallenged. Undoubtedly, unscrupulous people stand to make money from exploiting Afghan farmers and distributing misery on our streets. In the context of the collaboration to which the minister referred, what role can the Scottish Executive play, working with Westminster colleagues and other Governments, to tackle the supply of drugs in our communities?

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

I am interested in that point. Does the member agree that that is even more important given that the drugs industry in Afghanistan and other countries is being used to fund terrorist activities?

Photo of Mary Mulligan Mary Mulligan Labour

There is obviously a bigger picture. We are all very concerned to tackle the problem, whatever the outlet for the funds that these people gather.

Having established my global credentials, I would like to get much more local. Recently I visited the West Lothian Drug and Alcohol Service. Like many community organisations, it is central to tackling drugs issues in our communities. The service is pleased with the policy measures that the Scottish Executive has introduced and with the local support that it has received to deliver the services that it is committed to providing. It goes without saying that the West Lothian Drug and Alcohol Service appreciates the fact that the Scottish Executive has backed up its policies with financial resources. Although representatives of the service were too professional to say it, what came through in what they were telling me was that the service did not receive the same resources under previous Governments. However, the service faces challenges even now, and I would like to raise a couple of them with the minister.

The West Lothian Drug and Alcohol Service has established a locality clinic, with the involvement of community drugs workers, social workers, alcohol workers and a number of other professionals, but the funding for it will come to an end in March 2005. Waiting times from the first point of contact to securing a place on a support programme have come down from 32 weeks to two weeks, and the needle bus that the service has provided has had great results. However, because of the uncertainty, the service has no indication of whether the clinic's work, which is showing results, can be continued, or whether its staff can be retained. Is there some way in which the funding issue can be addressed? I know that three-year funding is better than the annuality that applied previously, but it is not wonderful.

I turn to capital funding for projects such as the one that I have just described. The West Lothian Drug and Alcohol Service is presently using a tenement in Livingston very creatively, but it is outgrowing it, partly because of the success of the projects that it delivers locally. Those who provide the service feel that it has not been able to utilise capital spend in the same way as it has been able to utilise revenue spend. Could the Executive consider that, perhaps using futurebuilders funding?

I believe that the Executive is on the right track. Prevention, education, treatment and rehabilitation: those are how we can make progress on tackling drugs and the damage that they do in our communities.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party 3:39 pm, 27th October 2004

I echo some of Mary Mulligan's remarks. She is right to stress the global dimension of the issue, which we need to address. It is not something that we can ignore and I certainly urge the Executive to take it in hand. We hear plenty these days about the war on terror and about how the situation in Afghanistan is being dealt with, but the reality is that there is increased production of opium-bearing poppies in Afghanistan, largely because Afghan farmers regard those poppies as a successful cash crop. We need to give them an alternative, just as we need to provide alternatives for addicts who have chaotic lifestyles to varying degrees and who need to be rehabilitated and made employable so that they can be productive in our society. We need to be in a position to help Afghan farmers move away from the poppy fields as a source of cash and to provide alternatives. I suggest that the Minister for Justice has discussions with her colleague, Mr Finnie, who, as I understand it, has responsibility for the Scottish agricultural and biological research institutes, to see whether anything can be done in Scotland to produce successful alternative cash crops that might be grown in places such as Afghanistan. That could be positive.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green

Does the member acknowledge that one of the factors that leads farmers to go back to opium production or poppy growing is the way in which world trade is regulated? Does he acknowledge that simply suggesting alternative cash crops has not been successful for other agricultural economies that have to compete with multinationals and subsidised western agricultural economies?

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

I acknowledge that world trade arrangements influence these matters. However, there is no doubt that the fact that farmers can get cash for the crops influences them to grow them. I do not think that substituting crop production for subsistence farming is likely to prove attractive.

I turn to the impact of drugs on our prisons. We have heard about the outcome of some of the research that the Executive has commissioned—I am delighted that the Executive is commissioning research in this difficult area. In the past I have asked how many of the drug deaths that have been reported have happened not long after someone comes out of prison and where they have happened, because I do not believe that the experience is universal. As far as I am aware, it is not the experience of prisoners coming out of prison in the north-east. Will the minister tell us whether research on that has been commissioned? If it has not been commissioned, why not and when will it be commissioned? If there are differences in the number of drug deaths depending on where people come out of prison that might reflect differences in prison regimes, from which we might learn something useful.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I hope that the member will welcome the fact that we have indicated that we will examine every drug-related death that took place during 2003, so some of the points that he raised will be picked up in that process. Of course we acknowledge the problems with the transfer from prison back to the community, as I have indicated.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

I accept fully that there are problems with that transfer; we need to plug the gaps. However, I am not absolutely convinced that there is a universal association between people being released from prison and drug deaths. If there are differences in the number of such deaths, we might learn something useful.

On the Tories' amendment, although I have some sympathy for the idea that we need to think seriously about methadone prescription as the primary method of tackling heroin abuse, I have no sympathy for the implicit suggestion that the only way to tackle drug misuse is abstinence. The current provision of abstinence support is woefully weak and is certainly not universal. There are different levels of support for different types of treatment in different parts of the country, which is rather unfortunate, to say the least. As the Executive develops programmes—I am delighted that it is going to increase the funding—I hope that we will have a much better, more uniform system to tackle the problems.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

It seems to me that today's debate is going to be coloured by the question of who is right and who is wrong. I remind the member that the Executive set up its effective interventions unit in 2000, but there is little to tell us what is right and what is wrong. Does the member share my concerns about the funding, remit, research and conclusions of the unit?

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

You have one minute, Mr Adam.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

I look forward with interest to reading further material that is published by the effective interventions unit. The debate over whether only abstinence works or only intervention works is irrelevant. We should be following whatever course works for the individual.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

I would love to, but I am in my last minute.

I believe that, in my area, we do not offer enough abstinence-type treatments. That might be true throughout the country. The reason for that lack is that there is a wide difference between what the public perceive as being successful, what the addicts and their families perceive as being successful and the advice that is given by professionals. We should pay heed to what professionals have to say, but their influence over public policy on the matter that we are discussing has been too great. They are not listening to what the public or addicts are saying. Most adults are telling us that they would prefer to go down an abstinence route—something like two thirds of them said that in a recent survey.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

I am sorry, but I do not have time to take any interventions.

We have not got the balance right; however, to present the argument in terms of one approach being right and another approach being wrong is not helpful in any way.

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative 3:46 pm, 27th October 2004

A drug-free society is an ideal, but is none the less worthy for that. This debate is potentially wide ranging but I want to concentrate on two main aspects: ending abuse and limiting access.

One of the most important steps towards ending abuse is to recognise that cannabis is a harmful substance in its own right, known to adversely affect the immune, reproductive, respiratory, cardiovascular, neuropsychological and central nervous systems, as well as acting as a gateway to hard drugs. It is quite definitely no soft option. That is why the Conservatives are fundamentally opposed to its declassification and intend to reclassify cannabis as a class B drug at the first opportunity.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Does the member recognise and agree with the following quote?

"The illegal drug trade occurs because the US and other Western countries pass anti-drug laws which they cannot enforce."

As a Conservative, does Margaret Mitchell agree with those words from Milton Friedman?

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

I do not agree with that. Tommy Sheridan displays the usual warped thinking from the SSP when we are trying to tackle a serious subject. We will move on to discuss some concrete measures.

One major issue in relation to ending drug abuse is drugs in prison. We know that there are drugs in prison, but accepting that something exists does not mean that it is acceptable. I am deeply concerned that the Executive's approach to drugs in prison appears to be the same as its approach to drugs in society, which is that it promotes harm minimisation. That policy might be acceptable as a limited short-term measure to prevent death and serious injury, but it can never be more than that. Certainly, it can never stand as a principal policy for tackling the serious problems that are caused by drugs.

Research has shown that a majority of prisoners who take drugs want not to manage their habit but to be free from drugs. Let us capitalise on that desire by taking advantage of the opportunity to get people off drugs that exists while people are in prison. That is something that the Executive has failed to do. It is important to understand that that objective will be realised only with investment and intervention. That means offering prisoners the chance to go on programmes of drug rehabilitation that are properly funded, resourced and—even more important—managed and which will not be abandoned due to staff shortages or illnesses in the Scottish Prison Service, which are a real problem.

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour

I had difficulty hearing because of the microphones, but I think that the member said that the Scottish Executive appears to be doing little to help prisoners who are on drugs. Would she mind telling us what the Conservatives did when they were in power?

Photo of Margaret Mitchell Margaret Mitchell Conservative

I could spend the next five minutes doing that. I assure the member that people with DTTOs were regularly tested. When Michael Forsyth was Secretary of State for Scotland, that was a priority. Unfortunately, I have no time to go into detail, but I am happy to take that up with the member later.

Access to a rehabilitation programme should be a prisoner's right, but with that right comes responsibility. We know that most drugs enter prisons through prison visits. It is understandable that prisoners do not want to be watched or listened to during a visit, but if prisoners use those visits to access drugs, their right to have open visits should be withdrawn immediately. They must earn the right to have such visits reinstated by showing that they can be trusted and that they are fully signed up to the rehab programme. However, that is only half the problem. Thereafter, measures must be put in place to ensure a prison environment in which prisoners who are clean are not tempted back to drug taking.

That brings me to the broad issue of limiting access, which presents a huge problem. On access to drugs in prison, the public would be appalled to learn that prisoners have access to mobile phones. It is impossible to be serious about controlling drugs in prison while that practice continues. The Scottish Executive must take decisive action to ensure that mobile phones are not available to prisoners.

Another important matter that must be tackled as a priority is the recently highlighted problem of some security firms acting as a front for organised crime, drug dealing, extortion and money laundering. Tom Buchan, who is the president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, should be supported in his bid to persuade the Executive to subject those private firms to the same strict licensing regime as exists elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Instead, the Executive is doing what it does best—dithering. The minister is too often content to tinker at the edges by announcing initiatives such as a first-aid policy for drug users and their families.

If the minister wishes to tackle the access problem seriously, she should make introducing legislation a priority. She should make time available for that by abandoning the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Bill and setting aside the time that will be wasted on that unnecessary bill to legislate to deal with the licensing problem.

I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment in Annabel Goldie's name.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

We are significantly behind the clock, so I will have to cut the time for speeches to five minutes after Sylvia Jackson's speech and the time limits will have to be observed.

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour 3:53 pm, 27th October 2004

I welcome the minister's comments and her commitment to continue moving forward on this important matter. As she knows, Cornton Vale is in my constituency and I have had a long interest in many Cornton Vale issues. I have been supportive of the motion on halfway houses and of the time-out centre in Glasgow.

I am pleased to hear from the minister about the research that has been conducted at the University of Stirling and about the success with DTTOs. From listening to the Conservatives, one would imagine that nothing good is happening. Perhaps some Conservatives should come along to the cross-party group on drug and alcohol misuse, which they have not yet done.

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour

I will not, because the member did not give way to me.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

When the member has time, will she give the Conservatives a little education, so that they know the difference between DTTOs and random drug testing in prison, about which Mrs Mitchell was totally and utterly confused?

Photo of Sylvia Jackson Sylvia Jackson Labour

I thank the member for that information, which I have no doubt has been passed on.

I will talk about an important subject, which the minister touched on: young people and how they are affected by drugs, whether they take drugs or, as is more often the case, have parents who have become involved with drugs.

This year Stirling Council has revised a document about young people and substance use. It states that effective action against substance use is a challenge for everyone in society and that there is no one solution to the problem of substance use. There is a need to harness the energies and commitment of young people, staff, parents and all agencies who have specific roles to play. That is more true than ever.

We have talked about prisons. We should try to break the cycle of prisoners coming out of prison and having drug problems, and very much try to break the cycle in families when children are affected.

Stirling Council's report contains stark statistics. Some 11 per cent of 13-year-olds and 20 per cent of 15-year-olds had used drugs in the previous month. That figure is higher than the national average. By far the most common drug that was used was cannabis, with 16 per cent of 13-year-olds and 33 per cent of 15-year-olds having used that drug in the past year. Some 40 per cent of 13-year-olds and 72 per cent of 15-year-olds had been offered drugs.

In my constituency and other constituencies, the drug action team or substance action team is the focal point for adopting the strategy and taking a multi-agency approach. The review of our strategy in Forth valley has been warmly welcomed. That said, I acknowledge that, in its November 2003 response to the Scottish Executive, the Scottish Drugs Forum said that we need to review further what is happening with our DATs and SATs.

Obviously, the police have a crucial role to play within the multi-agency approach. Although I want to concentrate on younger people, it would be remiss of me not to mention the great success in the Central region. Operation overlord began in February 2001, and drugs with a total street value of £2.6 million have been recovered. In addition, since April 2004, 122 dealers have been arrested, and suspected criminal assets worth £1 million have been retained. That is good news.

I return to education. Annabel Goldie said one thing that was true when she spoke about the role of education. For young people, school is a safe environment for part of the day. The curriculum, learning and teaching are also important. I am talking not only about the idea of the health-promoting school, but about the existing five-to-14 curriculum, which includes environmental studies and personal and social development, and the multi-disciplinary approach that brings together guidance, physical education, home economics and science to make children more aware of the issues and how to deal with them.

I want to mention briefly two initiatives that Stirling Council started. One is the interact initiative, which brings drama into the curriculum and helps children through acting out, with specialist support, so that they can come to terms with some of the issues around drugs. Drop-in centres also operate in some secondary schools at lunch time. They, too, have specialist help, and support children whose families are affected by drugs. Stirling Council thinks—as I am sure other councils think—that it could do much more if it had a little more resource. Again, one of the Scottish Drugs Forum's recommendations is that more family support posts and action research on supporting children living with grandparents would be helpful.

I support the motion.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 3:59 pm, 27th October 2004

I welcome the motion, which well reflects the balanced approach that the coalition Government has to drugs, balancing enforcement against prevention of the problem in the first instance.

The minister, rightly, referred to the revolving door—which we do not want to have—and she had good ideas about preventing that. Many other members have also had good ideas about what to do with people once they get into drugs. I will concentrate on how we can prevent or discourage people from getting into the revolving door. There are some things that we can do better than we do at the moment to discourage people from getting involved with drugs.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

On the issue of the revolving door, does the member not think it bizarre that, in the Kirkcaldy area, because of the new GP contract, the wait to access the services of a general practitioner for someone who wants to undergo drug rehabilitation has gone from six to 26 weeks? The GP contract is getting in the way in that area.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

In fact, to access services in the Kirkcaldy area it would be quicker to commit a drug crime than it would be to get access through victim services.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

Come on. This is not reasonable.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat

Certainly, it is important to deal with people as quickly as possible once they recognise that they have a drug problem.

We must place more emphasis on the need to have a positive attitude towards our communities by creating a vigorous community life through community activities, youth work and the promotion of sport and the arts. All those things are well worth while in their own right for individuals and for their beneficial effect on communities, but they have an added good effect in helping some young people to develop a positive involvement in good things in life rather than getting involved in drugs. A lot of effort must go in locally, and the Executive must support that sort of vibrant community activity through a good funding system.

It is also important to combat alcohol misuse and under-age drinking, which have a bad effect on the people involved and on their communities. Alcohol is often a gateway to drugs, and if we can tackle more effectively than we do at present the culture of binge drinking and under-age drinking, we will help ourselves to deal with drugs issues. I was heartened to read, in a cutting from today's Evening Times that I was given just as I was coming to the chamber, about Strathclyde police's vigorous campaign with regard to off-licences in North Lanarkshire and the sale of alcohol to under-age people. We should do more of that sort of thing.

I take the same line as Brian Adam with regard to the argument that we must tailor schemes to help individuals rather than have a doctrine that says that either abstinence or substitutes are good. Some people might benefit from one approach; some might benefit from the other. I urge the ministers to give a fair wind to the idea of putting more effort into encouraging abstinence. The fact that Annabel Goldie espoused that argument in her usual robust style—that is the polite way of putting it—should not discourage ministers from considering the research. It is a serious proposal, as abstinence will help some people more than methadone.

Finally, we can better harness the talents of young people to persuade other young people to get on the right track. There is no use in a wrinkly like me saying to young people, "Drugs are a very bad thing." They would tell me—quite rightly—to get lost. However, last week I listened to some young people in a Prince's Trust project who had a pretty rocky past but who were being well motivated to start afresh with a new career. They were interested in helping other young people not to get into the same trouble as they had got into. If we can harness the energies and talents of such young people, they will speak with real vigour and accountability to other young people and help to lead them in the right direction.

We can explore some of those ideas; however, I think that the Executive is very much on the right lines. We just want to do more of the same, better.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party 4:04 pm, 27th October 2004

I am pleased that, after having a Parliament for the past five years, we are debating this issue in some detail. It has taken a long time to get here, but the issue of drugs misuse is one of the biggest for the communities that we represent.

When the Parliament met in Aberdeen a couple of years ago, I had a members' business debate on the subject, which many members attended to discuss the issues. I lodged the motion for that members' business debate because drugs misuse is such a huge problem in Grampian, the area that I represent in Parliament.

There are 1,400 registered addicts in the city of Aberdeen alone. The local agency workers reckon that around three times as many people are also addicted to drugs but are not registered with local agencies. That represents approximately 3 per cent of the population aged 15 to 54 in the city of Aberdeen. The issue is huge in Aberdeen and it is crawling into rural areas throughout Grampian.

There has been a major problem with drug-related crime in Aberdeen in recent years—for example, the number of housebreakings is double the national average. The local police reckon that 80 per cent of the crime that is committed in the city and region is related to drugs. We also have the highest rate in Scotland of babies who are born addicted to drugs and one of the highest rates of drug-related deaths.

A couple of years ago I had a private meeting—organised by a local charity—with 10 drug addicts. Many people from different backgrounds have become addicts in recent years in Grampian. The area has been targeted by dealers from south of the border because of its perceived wealth although, of course, it is not just wealthy people who become involved in drugs. I remember speaking to one woman who had lived in a leafy suburb of Aberdeen in a house that she owned with a car in the drive. The last time I saw that woman, she was begging on Union Street in the middle of Aberdeen. That brought home to me not only how huge the issue is, but the fact that the Parliament has to address it.

The people whom I met told me that they were desperate to get off drugs and to get back to some kind of stability. However, when they applied to local agencies to get treatment—I accept that this was a couple of years ago and that things have improved since then—they were told that, in some cases, they would have to wait for one and a half to two years. I ask members to imagine someone who voluntarily wants to get off drugs going to his local drug agency and health board only to be told that while they will help, he has to come back in a year.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

The member has indicated that things have improved and I am glad to hear him say so. I hope that he will recognise that when we allocated funding to Grampian NHS Board earlier this year, we increased funding to more than £1.9 million—an increase of 49.5 per cent—to try to get those local services in place. I hope that he agrees with the message that I tried to give out today, which is that I expect to see a reduction in waiting times in each area. Obviously, there will be different pressures and problems in different areas and I welcome continued involvement to ensure that we get it right in each local area.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

I welcome that, and I will be examining all the minister's announcements in the coming days to make sure that enough resources make their way to Grampian.

Grampian—and elsewhere—needs a mix of treatment programmes. Residential places will suit some people and community service will suit others. Parliament has to accept that there must be a mix of rehabilitation services.

The voluntary sector has been mentioned and is crucial. Some rural areas of Grampian have access to organisations such as Grampian Addictions Problems Service, which is run by volunteers and which scrimps and scrapes from year to year. Local people give the organisation hand-outs such as free computers to try to keep it going. That organisation is working at the coalface with addicts and their families. Everyone who has spoken in this debate has acknowledged that families go through sheer hell as a result of having an addict in the family. I appeal to the minister to work with her colleagues and other ministers to ensure that the voluntary sector is given adequate and consistent funding.

I have only one minute left and I will use it to talk about cocaine use. Much of the debate about rehabilitation services has centred on heroin, which has also been the target in Grampian. During the past four years, cocaine use in Aberdeen has increased by 600 per cent and the area is now being targeted by cocaine dealers. Cocaine users are a different type of client. They are often middle-class people with too much disposable income, but they now also have huge social problems. That situation requires a different response to that given to heroin users. Not enough research has been done into how we are to deliver rehabilitation services for cocaine users as well as heroin users and others. That is the next challenge on the horizon and I hope that the minister will turn her attention to it.

On tackling drugs in prisons, there is a lack of sniffer dogs in the Scottish Prison Service. Craiginches inmates know that the sniffer dogs hardly ever visit. We need more sniffer dogs in the SPS and in HM Customs and Excise to help to keep drugs out of our prisons and to stop them coming into Scotland. The drug-dog unit has not yet been reinstated in Scotland. The unit is run from the north of England and hardly ever visits our ports in Scotland. That situation has to be addressed, as the Scottish Affairs Committee in Westminster requested about three years ago, but we are still waiting for the unit to be reinstated.

Photo of Des McNulty Des McNulty Labour 4:10 pm, 27th October 2004

The problems of drug abuse and the associated problems of alcohol abuse are two of the most serious problems that we face in Scotland. They blight so many people's lives, but they also hold back Scotland's economic, cultural and national development. Those problems have to be a national priority.

I recognise and welcome the comments that the minister made today about the priority that she intends to give to tackling drugs misuse and the measures that she will introduce.

Having heard Annabel Goldie and Margaret Mitchell, who are normally two of the most sensible Conservative speakers, I am a bit worried about the kind of radical approach that we can expect from Chief WiggumBill Aitken—who is due to speak later in the debate.

We need to shift the focus on how we tackle drug abuse away from the client and more towards the community. That is the key dimension of change on which I will focus my attention. Nobody would deny the dreadful impact that drugs have on people, their families, their neighbours and the wider community. However, if we focus purely on the problems of the individual, we will not address adequately the problems of the family, the neighbours and the community. We do not necessarily give those people an adequate voice when it comes to tackling problems that affect them.

Drugs misuse is a problem that affects poor people, particularly those who live in deprived communities. I accept what Richard Lochhead says about there being particular problems in Grampian, as there are throughout Scotland. However, it is undoubtedly the case that west central Scotland and urban areas in that region have the most severe and intractable problems, often because the problems of drug abuse are a product of, conditioned by and associated with other problems. We will not deal with the drugs problem by focusing purely on that problem itself—we have to deal with the full range of problems in order to sort out the drugs problem. One cannot just pluck somebody out, sort out one aspect of their problems, re-engage them in the same environment that created the problems and then expect everything to be hunky-dory. It simply does not work like that.

We have to adopt a community-based approach, give communities more of a voice in the way in which we deal with the drugs problem and not confine the way in which we do that to drugs-based initiatives.

Schools will not deal with drugs effectively through drugs lessons alone. Rather, dealing effectively with drugs will happen through the way in which the school deals with the child in the context of the wider curriculum and through the way in which the school integrates the family with the education of the child. The problem will be dealt with through the ethos that is created in the school environment. Those are the important points.

I do not say that drugs education is unimportant. We owe it to children to teach them about the adverse effects of drugs and the devastation that they can cause. However, we will not wean people off drugs by inserting a little building block on drugs into the curriculum; that will happen only if we recognise that drugs are a key problem. The way in which we manage the educational process must focus on how we deliver more effective outcomes.

The same is true in the context of policing. If we say that dealing with drugs is the problem of drugs officers, ultimately we will not mobilise the police service to deal effectively with a problem that affects everyone in that service. All police officers deal with the consequences of drug use by drug offenders. The same is true in the medical profession. The health problems of many people who present to general practitioners, doctors and consultants in certain specialties are associated with drugs problems.

We will deal with the issue of drugs only by recognising its full force and acknowledging that, although the steps that Cathy Jamieson has announced are crucial and very welcome, we need to rebalance our thinking on health, education and policing to ensure that we adopt a holistic approach. We need to go beyond a client-based approach that focuses on an individual to include the family, the neighbours and the community and to give people rights and a voice in the way in which this matter is taken forward.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative 4:15 pm, 27th October 2004

Many members have raised the issue of prisons. I should mention that Inverness prison is currently more than 50 per cent overcrowded. If we want prisoners to undertake further detoxification and rehabilitation programmes, we must seriously address certain staffing and overcrowding issues.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

My point is very brief. The whole point of DTTOs is to reduce the pressure on prisons.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

No, I would never agree with Mr Raffan. That would be a dangerous thing to do.

The Executive motion refers to

"increasing the range and effectiveness of local drug treatment and rehabilitation services".

I hope that both ministers will consider the fact that in the Highlands a drug addict can wait up to four weeks for treatment and in Moray up to three months.

Although I welcome co-ordination across the Parliament on this issue, Dr Richard Simpson promised some time ago that dual diagnosis would be introduced. I welcome the review that has been announced today and hope that something positive will come out of it.

I want to raise some questions that follow on from parliamentary questions I have asked over the past few years, most of which were answered by Hugh Henry. Given that asking parliamentary questions does not always lead to informative answers, I would first like to know now how the Executive is monitoring the methadone programme. Has the effective interventions unit, which was set up in 2000, audited people on methadone? Has any evaluation been made to find out what is an effective intervention and what kinds of prevention, treatment and rehabilitation have been cost-effective? We need to know that information. We should not have to bat questions and answers backwards and forwards and be made to feel that one side seems to know more than the other. Indeed, the Executive website contains very little such evidence.

Secondly, how many people have progressed through the methadone programme to a drug-free lifestyle? Ministers need to provide the figures to back up their claim that the programme is a good one.

Furthermore, what has been done in response to the Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health's report on injecting drug users in the Highlands who were also on a methadone script? What percentage of methadone patients are regularly tested for illegal drugs? Are their methadone scripts halted in certain circumstances? Some time ago, when I asked whether heroin was more addictive than methadone, Iain Gray replied:

"Heroin is generally thought to be more addictive than methadone. However ... drug users often claim that methadone is 'harder to come off' than heroin."—[Official Report, Written Answers, 2 July 2001; S1W-16696.]

We need guidance from the effective interventions unit on that question.

Finally, how often is methadone recorded as a factor in the cause of death? After all, doctors and pharmacists can be charged with culpable and reckless conduct for dispensing high levels of methadone that later result in death.

I want to return to the issue of dual diagnosis, which the minister touched on. Drugs and, indeed, alcohol are often used as a mask to cover up underlying mental health problems. When people complete the detox and rehab process—quite often successfully—they are often left to face their demons and to address the fears and anxieties that might have led them into the drug culture in the first place. Indeed, after ridding themselves of illegal drugs, they find themselves on legal drugs that they just cannot come off. For example, NHS Highland sent a gentleman a letter that read:

"You have been referred to the Community Mental Health Team, but unfortunately, due to a number of circumstances we are unable to allocate a worker to you at present. Your name has therefore been placed on our waiting list."

That gentleman committed suicide two weeks ago. The family found the letter among his belongings.

I am sorry that I must rush so much. There is around a 12-month wait to see a clinical psychologist in the Highlands. However, legal antidepressants are handed out freely without proper and adequate support and care. I remind the minister that many women in the 1950s and 1960s were given valium for post-natal depression and that they were still on that antidepressant when they were in their 70s. I ask the minister to co-ordinate her work with the Minister for Health and Community Care to ensure that that does not happen with the selective serotonin re-uptake drugs.

Photo of Helen Eadie Helen Eadie Labour 4:20 pm, 27th October 2004

I am grateful for the chance to contribute to this important debate. Dunfermline East sits to the east of the M90 and its close proximity to that motorway has presented a challenge to the work of the police and to the towns and villages of Rosyth, Cowdenbeath, Kelty and Ballingry because they are the targets of dealers who regard the motorways as their fast track between London, the Midlands, the major ports and all points north.

My constituents live in an area that is, in the main, one of the most disadvantaged in Fife. Its villages and towns were once prosperous mining areas, but since the Tories closed the nation's pits, the families who continue to live there have faced major challenges. At the same time as the Tories closed our pits, they closed our naval base in Rosyth; the associated dockyards are now a shadow of what they once were. In other words, tens of thousands of jobs disappeared and the Tories ravaged our communities mercilessly. What followed were the drug dealers.

I have been involved politically in public life for almost 30 years in Fife and, briefly, in London. It is my perception that only in the past few years has public policy on drugs across the UK started to develop and have an impact. I would argue that that planning and strategy have been prioritised only because the Labour-led Labour-Liberal coalition has ensured that that is what happened. I cannot recall whether the Tories ever had a drugs policy. In contrast, one of the first actions of the Scottish Executive was the launching in May 2000 of a national partnership against drugs misuse as part of its drugs strategy. The Executive had the wisdom to include key partners, such as the voluntary sector, the NHS, drug action teams, Scotland's councils and appropriate national agencies. We were delighted when, as part of the initiative, the then minister agreed that the second pilot drugs court be established in Fife in August 2002. Researchers at the University of Stirling found that sheriffs and drug addicts alike broadly welcomed the pilot project in Glasgow. In its first six months, only one DTTO out of 32 was breached.

In Dunfermline East, a variety of individuals are making efforts but I want to highlight in particular the work of Benarty Cares. Like Margaret Smith, I have been asked to convey to ministers that a local organisation feels that its work is being supported. Benarty Cares has been awarded funding by the Executive only recently and we are delighted about that.

We have seen the work of the Mothers Against Drugs initiative and others across Scotland, including Benarty Cares. It is crucial today to pay tribute to all those who work with us collectively as agents of change. Groups and organisations are being funded in a way that never happened in 18 years of Tory rule. If there is one policy change that I would single out for praise in connection with the Executive's approach, it is the change that came with the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. I agree with Mary Mulligan on that point, because the 2002 act gives the Government power to seize drug dealers' assets. Since April 2004, the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency has identified £8.5 million of realisable criminal assets for potential seizure by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

I am delighted to learn from the minister that the SDEA has widened its scope to cover all forms of serious crime, including drug trafficking, money laundering, organised crime and sex offences against children. The Executive's pan-European approach, working in close collaboration with police forces across the UK as well as with HM Customs and Excise and our European partners, is to be commended. That partnership strives to put an end to the criminal networks that supply drugs to Scotland.

When the Scottish Parliament's Social Inclusion Committee published its report in 2000, it found that drugs misuse had been increasing over the previous decade. It is interesting to note that the latest published figures show a fall of 17 per cent in drug-related deaths. It may be coincidental, but I believe that that has something to do with the Scottish Executive's determination, too.

A paper prepared by the Scottish Churches Parliamentary Office—briefing paper 6/10—reminds us:

"Probably the single issue that animated most newly elected MSPs back in 1999 was the drive to tackle Scotland's growing drugs problem. Those not already aware of the problem heard so much about it on election platforms that they knew 'something had to be done'. But what?"

The document goes on to set out four pages of A4 that detail the progress and achievements of people across Scotland who are working collectively with the Scottish Executive to make a real difference. As pragmatic politicians, we must acknowledge that a lot has been done, but so much more remains for us to do. I am pleased to support the ministers in that task.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

I now move to wind-up speeches. I call Tommy Sheridan. You have six minutes, Mr Sheridan.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP 4:25 pm, 27th October 2004

I begin by accusing the Executive of negligence and complacency in relation to the whole problem and the whole debate. The starting point for the debate has to be the fact that the overall scale of problem drug abuse, of drug-related harm, of drug-related crime and, shamefully, of drug-related deaths is increasing, not falling. The Minister for Justice referred to the lower level of drug-related deaths this year, but she dishonestly ignored the fact that the figure for heroin and morphine-related deaths in Scotland stood at 167 in 1999, when her Executive took power, and rose to 196 deaths in 2000, to 216 deaths in 2001 and to 248 deaths in 2002, and that it stood at a scandalous 382 deaths last year. That figure, the highest ever recorded, equates to more than one death a day from problem chaotic drug abuse—more lives than were lost at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland. That shows the urgency with which we should be approaching the problem, and I am afraid that the back-slapping and the patting on the shoulder that is going on is simply not good enough. Those statistics expose the bankruptcy and failure of the Executive's political approach to drugs misuse. We are conning the people of Scotland with the continuation of an enforcement-based approach. Pounding chests and beating desks to sound tough about drug abuse, drug dealers and drug trafficking secures cheap headlines in cheap newspapers, but it does not solve the problem. It does not diminish in any way, shape or form the heartache within families or the social disorder within communities that is caused by the illegal drugs trade.

Let us consider five years of the Executive's approach to the problem. Over the past five years, we have had more drug-related crime, more drug addicts and more drug-related deaths. That is a record of failure, not success. The will may exist among Executive members to tackle the scourge of drugs, but the tools that they are using are absolutely useless. We cannot empty the Atlantic with a teaspoon. Five years ago, the hard evidence that existed told us that for every £1 invested in drug treatment and rehabilitation services we saved £3 in other criminal expenditure. Today, the evidence shows us not that every £1 saves £3, but that every £1 saves as much as £9.50 in criminal expenditure.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

Is Mr Sheridan aware that that evidence also shows that, if we include addicts who use fraud to support their habits, the saving rises from £9.50 to £18?

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Keith Raffan's point is well made, because the £9.50 figure is the most conservative estimate of the saving that results from the switching of investment.

What we require is a radical change and a radical political shift. It will take some courage because we will be criticised by tabloids such as the Daily Mail, but we must grasp the nettle.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

The SSP's policy is clear in its manifesto: the party would provide free heroin to all registered addicts. Would the party also provide free crack cocaine to addicts of that particular drug?

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

That is a pity. It had seemed today that the SNP had matured over the past five years and had stood up to acknowledge that the cheap sloganising on this issue that we have heard from the party in the past was not good enough. Five years ago, the SSP was criticised by people like Stewart Stevenson for proposing the prescription of heroin as a way of stabilising adults' lives and of undermining the heroin trade in this country. Now I am glad to say that more and more members are asking why, given that the policy is working in other countries, we are not trying it here in Scotland.

I say to Stewart Stevenson that, yes, as part of a treatment programme, we in the SSP would make pharmaceutical heroin—along with a range of other services—available to addicts. We would do that to save lives and to stabilise people and get them back into society, but we would also do it to undermine the trade in illegal drugs.

The minister announced that the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency had had a record year last year, seizing £55 million of illegal drugs. That represents at best 5 per cent of the illegal drugs trade in Scotland. We have to stop conning people that we are going to win any drugs war, because we are not.

We need a new and radical approach. For instance, we should take cannabis out of the criminal underworld. Why? Because—and I want the minister to come back to me on this point—over the past five years, 70 per cent of all illegal drug arrests, 70 per cent of all illegal drug seizures and 70 per cent of all those imprisoned for the supply and trafficking of illegal drugs have been not for heroin or crack cocaine but for cannabis. Let us get rid of the soft target and let us dedicate more resources to treatment and rehabilitation and to providing local and accessible facilities in every Scottish community for children and parents who seek treatment.

We reject the Executive's motion today and we call for support for our amendment. What is being done just now is not good enough.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat 4:32 pm, 27th October 2004

I agree with Mr Sheridan that we must have a balanced approach—not an imbalanced one that favours enforcement as opposed to treatment and rehabilitation, or the other way round—but I caution the Executive that there are two ways of tackling drug misuse: one is by cutting supply, the other is by cutting demand.

I get a bit concerned, and a bit bored, when ministers—both at the House of Commons when I was an MP there, and here—come to the dispatch box and boasting of seizures. The true test is the street price of drugs. Boasting of greater seizures is meaningless unless one knows what the seizures represent as a proportion of the total amount coming in. The only measure of that is the street price. On the United Kingdom Government's own figures, the price of class A drugs has plunged by between 20 per cent and 40 per cent over the past five years. I agree that enforcement measures are necessary, but let us get the issue in perspective and let us not wrongly assess the effectiveness of the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency.

Since I introduced, 19 years ago, the private member's bill that is now an act of the Westminster Parliament—the Controlled Drugs (Penalties) Act 1985—I have become much more convinced that the way to tackle drug misuse effectively is to cut demand.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I hope that the member will accept that we have moved away from the SDEA targets that focus on the weights of class A drugs that are seized. We recognise that the way to deal with the issue is to disrupt the criminal networks and to seize the profits, putting them back into communities.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

Of course we have to do that. I am glad that the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee's inquiry, during the first session of the Parliament, into drug misuse and deprived communities helped to move the Executive away from an unbalanced emphasis on enforcement and towards a focus on treatment and rehabilitation. I was a member of that committee and Margaret Curran, who is now a Cabinet minister, was the convener. I am sure that she would agree with my point.

The other point that I want to make is about Professor Neil McKeganey's research. Again and again in recent weeks we have heard that 60 per cent of users want to get off drugs. My God! The specialists to whom I spoke at a presentation to the cross-party group on drug and alcohol misuse found that figure surprisingly low. Of course drug addicts want to get off drugs but, as Mr Stevenson rightly said, it is not a matter of choice. Drug misuse is an addiction—a form of compulsive-obsessive behaviour. What such people want is different from what they can achieve.

It is interesting that in an earlier drug outcome research in Scotland study—the DORIS study—Professor McKeganey produced a figure that said that 60 per cent of respondents felt that harm reduction, principally through methadone, had motivated them to try to sort out their troubles. Many of the responses in such surveys depend on the questions one asks.

Let us put the issue in perspective. The debate should not be about abstinence versus harm reduction. That subject is stale; it is old hat. Watching Annabel Goldie re-enacting Nancy Reagan saying "Just say no" almost makes me pro Nancy Reagan. The speeches from members on my left have been rational; I am very sorry about the speeches from Conservative members on my right. Tory members have made two of the worst speeches in any drugs debate in the past five years. Their speeches were based on ignorance. I have warned Miss Goldie before about becoming too much in thrall to the viewpoint of Maxie Richards, but she has ignored me. I only wish that Miss Goldie had followed my suggestion and had come along to any of the many meetings of the cross-party group on drug and alcohol misuse that have been held over the past five years. That would have relieved her of her lamentable ignorance.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

I will not give way; the member did not give way to me. If Miss Goldie starts to show courtesy to other members during her speeches, I will show courtesy to her. She should sit down and listen and learn, because her speech was outrageous. It undermined the work of many people in the field and it has utterly destroyed her party's credibility with those in this country who are working extremely hard to tackle drug misuse. Her reputation in the field is next to nothing. She should ask Mr McLetchie for a move and one of the more responsible Conservative members should take her place.

We need as wide a range of services as possible. Brian Adam was right about that and Stewart Stevenson was right in his intelligent speech. I do not agree with everything that other members said, but at least they were trying to be positive. We need a full spectrum of services to be provided throughout Scotland, because there are gaps in provision in many areas. We must improve front-line services; the minister knows that. Early access to services is crucial for addicts. We must ensure that, when they are at rock bottom and want to get into treatment, they do not have to wait, come off rock bottom and then go back to active addiction.

We must examine what other countries are doing. Miss Goldie is right about that, if not in the countries that she identified—although Sweden has an effective methadone programme. For example, although it is estimated that Switzerland has 26,000 drug misusers, 20,000 of them are in treatment. The figures for the Netherlands are similar. Frankly, we must do a lot better than we are doing at present by learning how those countries manage to succeed in getting addicts into treatment.

Methadone has played a key role in the treatment and care of drug users. The programme here in Scotland is internationally renowned. Two years ago, I was in Australia and met Dr Andrew Byrne, who writes regularly to the British Medical Journal and The Lancet. He thinks that our programme is much better managed than that down south. It reduces drug-related crime. I have all the figures with me, which I will happily give to the Tories, and they are backed by no fewer than 15 academic papers. As well as reducing drug-related crime and the spread of blood-borne viruses that results from needle sharing, the incidence of hepatitis C and the number of drug-related deaths, methadone cuts down the chaos of users' lives and stabilises and improves them. The latest national treatment outcome research study shows that, for every £1 spent, at least £9.50 in crime costs is saved.

There are two areas of deep concern that I want to raise with the minister. The first is the detrimental impact of GP contracts on treatment services, especially in certain parts of the country, not least Fife. Bruce Crawford was right to mention the appalling increase in the waiting time in Kirkcaldy. The second relates to employability issues. The new futures fund initiative is coming to an end next March. When people get on to methadone, they can get their lives stabilised and get into employment. That is exactly what we want them to do. If the Tories knew anything about the subject, they would know that that was the point of the methadone programme.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

You must finish, Mr Raffan.

Photo of Keith Raffan Keith Raffan Liberal Democrat

We must consider how we will progress the new futures fund initiative after next March.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative 4:39 pm, 27th October 2004

The minister was right to begin with a graphic description of the effect of drug addiction on Scotland's communities. She was right to go on to condemn in absolute terms the people who are prepared to peddle in human misery. Throughout her speech, it was almost as if she was trying desperately to convince members that she is seriously concerned about the problem, but she does not need to do that—we know that she is seriously concerned about it. What we require to be convinced on is what she is going to do about the problem and whether the measures that she has announced today are adequate to cope with a problem that is a growing scourge in every community in Scotland.

Certainly, the minister succeeded in underlining in stark terms the difference between her and the coalition parties' thinking and that of the Conservatives. Whereas we believe in a zero tolerance approach, the minister's approach is one of resigned acceptance. It is as if she believes that drug addicts will always be with us, along with the poor.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

Bill Aitken said clearly that he supports a zero tolerance approach. His statement echoes some of the comments that were made earlier, about supporting abstinence. I assume that if a drug addict took the abstinence route under which they did not get treatment but were required to abstain, they would no longer need to use needles. Surely the Conservatives' proposals mean that needle exchanges would no longer apply? Would the Conservatives immediately stop needle exchange programmes?

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

The fundamental issue hinges on determination: are we prepared to be sufficiently robust to make a tangible difference? I am aware, when I stand in the chamber and talk of a zero tolerance approach, that we will never remove the problem of drug addiction throughout Scotland. As the deputy minister knows, the fundamental issue is that unless we are prepared to go down that route, we will never make a real difference.

The minister also spoke about the way in which she has pursued enforcement—a subject on which I have some interesting figures. In 1997, 8,219 people were proceeded against in Scottish courts for drug offences. By 2002, although the number of offences had increased, the number of prosecutions had fallen by 16 per cent to 6,943. That is hardly indicative of a more determined approach to drug enforcement.

The messages that the Executive is sending out are mixed to say the least. We know that drug addiction leads to offending. Yet again, however, over the past few weeks we have seen graphic illustrations of the fact that drugs are readily available in prisons. Is it not absolutely farcical that, in the closed environment of a prison, people seem to have no difficulty getting drugs?

A management issue is involved. If those responsible are sufficiently determined, it should be simple to prevent drugs getting into prison. We should also be prepared to prosecute in the most rigorous manner all those who are convicted.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Unlike the member—who probably should be in prison—I have been a prisoner. I assure him that it is very difficult—almost impossible—to stop the supply of drugs in prison. If we cannot stop the supply of drugs in prison, does the member realistically think that we can stop the supply of drugs in an open society?

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

That is the counsel of despair. If we cannot stop the supply of drugs to prisons, or if we cannot diminish it significantly, we may as well just pack up and go home.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

No, there have been too many interventions.

Let us look at some of the other approaches that have been suggested in the debate. I agree that treatment has to be made available at the earliest possible moment to those who need it. What happens in Glasgow, for example? If someone is an offender, the quickest way to get drugs treatment is to commit more crimes. Once someone is 40 or 50 convictions down the road, they will go to the drugs court and almost certainly be given rehabilitation. However, the minor offenders who end up in the district court, including prostitutes, many of whom are anxious to get off drugs, have to wait for months to get treatment. Basically, the Executive's proposals do not size up.

Mr Raffan correctly pointed out that, during the Parliament's first session, the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee undertook an intensive inquiry into the effect of drug addiction on poor communities. One of the pieces of evidence that struck me at the time was the way in which cannabis acts as a gateway drug, but the message that the Executive is sending out is that it does not consider cannabis to be much of a problem and will reclassify it. What on earth are we talking about? A tougher, more robust approach is required.

Of course, aftercare for prisoners is essential. It is one of the richest ironies that there is a unit in Barlinnie prison where prisoners can volunteer to go to stay clear of drugs. Having visited it, I think that the prisoners were perfectly sincere—they were making every effort—yet on the number 37 bus from Barlinnie to Possil they would no doubt be tapped by some pusher trying to persuade them to go back on the habit. We give them very limited support, which is simply not on.

The debate has been depressing because it is a depressing subject, but perhaps the most depressing aspect of all is the defeatism on the part of the Executive and the lack of determination to face up to the realities of the situation and to act accordingly.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 4:45 pm, 27th October 2004

In supporting the amendment in the name of Stewart Stevenson, we support the spirit and tenor of the Executive's motion and what it has said today and the SSP amendment moved by Rosemary Byrne. We fully dissociate ourselves from the comments of the Tories. We do not think that it is appropriate to talk about war or defeat. That must be addressed.

In the new chamber and new ambience in which we find ourselves, we are expected to have not just new solutions, but all the solutions. In an ideal world, that would be so. After all, why elect us if we cannot deliver? However, there are areas that are extremely complex and for which legislation is part, but not all, of the solution. The solutions are multifaceted and manifold. Things have to be tried—they may fail—and tried again. In certain areas, the success rate is nowhere near 100 per cent, but that does not mean that the solutions have failed, should not be tried or should not be persisted with. There is no clear solution. We cannot be delusional, deny reality, and say that we have the sole solution, that there is a magic bullet, or that a panacea is available. I dispute the positions of the Tories and, to some extent, Mr Sheridan's assertion that there is a simple solution. There is none.

The most telling contribution was Mr McNulty's, who acknowledged that the issue is not just about police and individuals, but about our communities and society. The problem is not just in Scotland: it affects all western democracies in some shape or form. The situation is certainly much less bad in Sweden than it is in America, and I would much rather pursue a north European solution than implement the Nancy Reagan solution, which Mr Raffan rightly said was being advocated by the Tories. It is not a recipe for success.

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

It is necessary to clarify what clearly is confusion in Mr MacAskill's mind. I said specifically that the policies that my party promulgates are modelled on what is happening in Sweden. How others construe that is up to them, but that is our position. It is because the situation in Sweden is working that we used it to inform our thinking.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

The rhetoric was more akin to what we heard from Nancy Reagan in the 1980s, as Mr Raffan said. Then, it was "Just say no," which was simplistic. It was a failure then and it would be a failure now. That is why we have the utterly ridiculous position that the life expectancy of a young black male in Harlem is lower than that of a young male in Bangladesh. What does that say about the most powerful country the world has ever known?

We have to address the situation. We have to recognise that the solution is multifaceted, that no one party has the ideal solution, and that there is no one easy solution. That is not an admission of failure; it is a recognition of reality.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

Not at the moment.

As we say to drug addicts, unless we accept that there is a problem, we will never address the solution. We have to repeat that.

The issue is not simply repression. We accept and support the Executive's proposals to hammer and clamp down on those who are causing mayhem in our schemes. However, that is not the solution, and it never can be, because we are not in a war, which is where we fundamentally disagree with the Tories. In a war, there is an identifiable enemy, whether it be the republican guard or the red army. We do not have that here. We are dealing with our own people: our sons and daughters. They are as likely to be our neighbour as anybody else. The Tories cannot say that they will wage war because, if they do, they will wage war on our communities and society. The collateral damage will not be the drug offenders and dealers; it will be the sons and daughters of the drug addicts, who have never committed any offence. We cannot go down that route. It is fundamentally unacceptable.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

Not at the moment.

We have to accept responsibility and make it clear to our people that the issue is one of free choice. We have to say that if anyone takes a decision to deal in drugs or participate in supplying them, they will face consequences and there will be no excuses because it is simply unacceptable. We have to drive that home, but at the same time we must accept that some people feel excluded, marginalised and alienated from society, and that until such time as we address that fact, we have no hope of finding a solution.

I am a good friend of Paul Laverty, the scriptwriter for the film "My Name is Joe". He told me that, to write that script, he went and stayed in Possilpark for a while. He asked the young kids, who came from difficult backgrounds and had poor education, why they took drugs. They said that their best hope for the rest of their lives would be to get a minimum-wage job in Burger King or to look around them at who was driving a BMW and had bought a flat in the west end of Glasgow. That is not to condone those who deal in drugs, but it is reality for many people. As Mr McNulty said, we must address those communities as part of our society, because that is what they are and we cannot get rid of them. We must educate them, work with them on health and employment and take responsibility for this social malaise, otherwise we will never address the problems.

What Mary Mulligan and Brian Adam said about poppy proliferation and events in Afghanistan was correct. We should do what we can to persuade the poppy farmers in Afghanistan not to grow poppies and to find a crop, perhaps not a cash crop, that would be better for them and their society.

Many members present are sporting poppies and I am remiss in not doing so. Why do we wear them? It is not in support of the poppy farmers of Afghanistan, but as a recognition of young men who fell in poppy fields in Flanders. I do not remember our waging war with the poppy farmers of Flanders. No such problem existed in our society then. It was not that there was no drugs trade then—in fact, a generation before the first world war, we had an opium war with China because certain sections of our society desired to have access to the money and resources that went with the opium trade—but there was not the same sense of futility. There was futility in the carnage that took place at Ypres, Mons and other such places, but there was not the same sense of futility among the young men who did not need the benefit of a white feather to troop off to war: they thought that they were fighting for a better society.

We must realise that the problem lies within, that we have to have effective policing and that we have to deal with drugs. It is possible to burrow out as well as to burrow in, and if it was not possible to prevent allied servicemen from escaping from stalags or prisoners from escaping from the Gulag, we will not prevent drugs from coming into the country. We must address the policing, but the Tories must realise that we have a problem in our society and that we must address it, which means addressing social exclusion and bringing everybody on board and giving them a stake.

There is no easy answer, but the Scottish National Party will work with all parties in the Parliament that are prepared to be progressive and work in a multifaceted way to address the most serious matter that our society has faced in its lifetime.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour 4:53 pm, 27th October 2004

In one respect, I agree with the Tories: the debate has been depressing. What is depressing is the pure political cynicism that they have displayed this afternoon in trying to distinguish themselves from other parties in the Parliament. I do not believe that their policy is a matter of logic or even that it is necessarily a matter of principle for them, because I hear senior Tories in Scotland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom admitting privately that some of the things that they are saying are unacceptable but that they have to say them for political reasons. It is depressing that, as a result, the Tories are prepared to gamble not only with the lives of many young people in Scotland, but with devastation in communities.

We know, as Kenny MacAskill was right to say, that there is no easy solution, because we all know that drug misuse has its roots in poverty, deprivation, lack of opportunity and lack of hope. That is one of the reasons why this debate cannot be seen in isolation from those that we are having on education, on investment in the early years, on the sure start Scotland programme and on the work that is being done in primary and secondary schools to improve opportunities for young people.

Nor can this debate be seen in isolation from the work that we are doing on looked-after children. We know about the problems that children experience if they move out of care and into drug addiction and, often, into prison. The debate cannot be seen in isolation from what we are trying to do to improve the health of people in this country. It cannot be seen in isolation from the debates that we are having about making Scotland a more prosperous country, where people have opportunity. People are absolutely right to say that this debate is but one facet of a much wider debate.

There are also immediate issues that we need to address in the Parliament, and there are things that need to be done. As Cathy Jamieson has said not only today but on previous occasions, we admit that things are not as good as they should be, that improvements could be made and that much more needs to be done. That is why she announced today some of the investment decisions that have been taken to build on the already substantial investment that has been made.

I will now refer to some of the specific issues that have been raised in the debate. Stewart Stevenson talked about the know the score website, as did Annabel Goldie and others. Stewart is absolutely right to say that we cannot know too much about drugs. He is also right to talk about parents being informed and being able to help their children. For Annabel Goldie and others to portray know the score as giving children information on how to hide drugs is a complete travesty of the facts: the advice was taken from a publication telling parents where to look if they suspected that their children might be hiding drugs. Such a portrayal is taking something positive, twisting it and telling lies—it is as blatant as that.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

No, thank you.

Stewart Stevenson also raised the issue of heroin prescribing. He took a balanced approach compared with that of Tommy Sheridan and Patrick Harvie. He was right to talk about the experiment that has been conducted in Switzerland. Tommy Sheridan's conclusion is that we should do the same thing here. I visited a heroin-prescribing project in Holland. What came across very clearly from that very small experiment is that the Dutch have an aging population of heroin users. It is not a growing problem among young people there, which is unlike the situation that we face in this country.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

No, thank you.

The Dutch believe that their approach of heroin prescribing is appropriate for the small number of heroin users there. Stewart Stevenson is right to suggest that we should reflect on the experience abroad. We will also reflect on the experience of the pilot projects to be undertaken in England and on the conclusions that are reached there. If there are lessons to be learned, we will learn them. Stewart Stevenson is right to say that we should not blindly jump in and follow what is happening in other countries.

I was asked about DATs and whether we will take control of them. Some members asked about monitoring. We will monitor, but we will also set service level agreements, because we expect DATs and other bodies to deliver. If they do not deliver, action will be taken.

I will now return to some of the disgraceful comments that the Conservatives made. They accuse the rest of us of being wooed by the politically correct. In essence, they have been regurgitating the politically incorrect and the politically unacceptable. Annabel Goldie held up Sweden as the example to follow. She is right to draw attention to some of the things that are happening there, but she went on to talk about drug deaths and the experiments that have been carried out.

The number of drug deaths has in fact quadrupled in Sweden in recent years. Is that a policy failure? If such a policy were tried in Scotland, would a comparable increase in deaths here be the price of the so-called moral high ground that the Tories want to take? The Conservatives are prepared to dice with the deaths of young people for a few cheap votes in this country, which is a disgrace.

What we have from the Executive is investment and a balanced and caring approach. We care what happens in our communities. Des McNulty is right to set this matter in a community perspective. We care deeply about what goes on and I assure members that we will not gamble with the lives of young people. We will not gamble with the devastation in communities. We will do what is right, but we will do it on an informed and principled basis.