Drug Abuse

– in the Scottish Parliament at 10:20 am on 9th March 2006.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 10:20 am, 9th March 2006

We ended the previous debate 12 minutes behind schedule, which has inevitable consequences for whom I can call in this debate. I also have a note of four points of order, which could impact on the debate if they are made. They all concern the same point, so it might make more sense to deal with them now.

All the points relate to the amendment in the name of Hugh Henry to the motion in the name of Annabel Goldie, on drug abuse. The amendment contains a typographical error. It says,

"leave out from 'calls on'" but should read "leave out from 'notes'". Members can be assured that the fact that the amendment was selected means that it was competent. The minister is not responsible for the typographical error and members will vote on the amendment as it should read, rather than as it is printed in the Business Bulletin.

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative 10:28 am, 9th March 2006

I thank the Presiding Officer for his explanation of the technical point about the amendment in the name of Hugh Henry. If amendments are inaccurate, that is slightly confusing for parties that are to contribute to a debate and makes it a little difficult to consider what the amendments mean. Be that as it may, I accept the Presiding Officer's ruling.

The decision to debate drug abuse in our business time was taken long before the tragic death of little Derek Doran from methadone was made public. I make no apology for calling a debate on this crucial subject and I am pleased that the First Minister at least seems to have recognised the growing drugs problem in Scotland, which the state has exacerbated by its overreliance on prescribing methadone.

I do not have much time—I realise the pressure on time—so I will focus on methadone. I make it clear that my party has never called for that drug to be dropped. Unlike those who believe that methadone is some sort of panacea, we do not believe in a one-size-fits-all attitude to dealing with drug abuse. Unfortunately, the overwhelming response to addiction in Scotland is placement on a methadone programme.

When the Parliament debated drug abuse in 2004, many members of other parties hounded me for daring to challenge the use of methadone. The former Liberal Democrat drugs spokesman, Keith Raffan, said that we needed to shout about the benefits of methadone. He said:

"Drug misuse is an addiction—a form of compulsive-obsessive behaviour. What such people want is different from what they can achieve."—[Official Report, 27 October 2004; c 11192.]

I challenge precisely that dismissive and patronising attitude, which leaves many people parked on methadone. Do we really want to continue a pattern that will lead to the prescription of more than 1 million methadone scripts a year by 2012?

It is imperative that those who find themselves addicted to heroin, methadone or any other substance are given immediate support and rehabilitation to help them to end their addiction and to return to leading a normal life. The Government's job is to help such individuals but, instead, they are trapped.

The drug outcome research in Scotland study by Professor Neil McKeganey of the University of Glasgow found that most drug addicts who seek help do so because they want to become clean and to change their lifestyle. The drug misuse statistics of 2005 showed that the majority of individuals who sought help did not want a prescription-based solution.

However, finding help is far from easy. England and Wales have a central directory of rehabilitation facilities, which includes those provided by the voluntary and private sectors. That gives individuals instant information about a variety of aspects, such as vacancies and locations. I reiterate my call for the Executive to establish such a directory for Scotland. We are a small country and surely that is not beyond the wit of man.

Alongside a central directory, a dramatic shift is needed towards offering individuals help and rehabilitation to come off drugs. I will quote a chilling passage from Professor Neil McKeganey's article in The Herald yesterday. He said:

"There is a simple truth here but one that is rarely shared, namely that methadone has all too easily become the drug-addiction treatment for the masses. There are no superstar heroin addicts or drug-dependent doctors signing themselves up for long-term methadone programmes. Residential rehabilitation is the gold-standard treatment for those who can afford it".

Rehabilitation and leading a drug-free lifestyle should not be an option that is open only to the well-off. Can we as a nation afford to leave so many languishing on methadone? If a person found that someone whom they cared about was addicted to heroin and that the only option open to that person was to be prescribed methadone, would they not worry and fear that the person whom they cared about was being consigned to a prescription prison? That is why I want the Executive to publish an analysis of whether the rehabilitation places that are available are adequate to meet demands and to say what it is doing to increase the number of places.

As I said it would, my speech has focused on the use of methadone. Much needs to be done to help addicts, but if we are to conquer the drugs problem, we must stop people taking drugs in the first place. It is deeply depressing and distressing that 80 per cent of people who sought treatment for the first time last year started to take drugs when they were under 20.

As I have said many times, we need to abandon the softly-softly know the score campaign and deliver a simple abstinence message.

Photo of Elaine Murray Elaine Murray Labour

I draw to the member's attention a quotation from David Cameron about a just say no campaign for children. He said:

"I don't believe it would work. But if we tell children the facts and the dangers, they might just listen."

Does that represent a difference in policy north and south of the border or is it just Mr Cameron's verbal gymnastics?

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

Not at all. The core of what Mr Cameron says is that we need to give children sensible information, not doctored information that implies that the problem is non-existent or far less serious than it is. The statistics that I just read out underline the gravity of what we are discussing.

We certainly need to use the voluntary sector more to develop clearer and more effective messages to educate people about the dangers of drug abuse. Politicians do not always know best and we need to use the vital charitable and voluntary organisations that work so hard to deal with drugs. They have a wealth of vital expertise and experience.

I have not commented on the amendments, because I did not understand one of them and because none of the others, in so far as they related to the motion, went to the core of what I regard the problem to be.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the increasing drugs problem in Scotland which has seen rises in the number of drug-related deaths and drug-related crimes; recognises that drug abuse destroys lives, tears families apart, leads to widespread and recurring crime and the disintegration of entire communities; believes that there should be a zero tolerance drugs strategy which aims to rid Scotland of drugs; believes that such a strategy should place an emphasis on early intervention and include a coherent education programme which prioritises abstinence, and believes that there needs to be a change in the help offered to drug addicts, away from an over-reliance on methadone and towards a drug-free lifestyle.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour 10:35 am, 9th March 2006

This is a useful debate. Such debates are generally characterised by thoughtful speeches—I except those by Conservative members—in which members genuinely try to grapple with a difficult problem.

I was struck this week by a letter in The Herald from a drugs expert in California, on methadone and people who criticise its use. That expert said that the first potential problem is the impact that careless adults can have on children and that the second problem is that

"drugs most commonly cause insanity in those who have never taken them."

I thought that he was describing members of the Conservative party, to whose comments I refer members.

We must recognise the significance and scale of the drugs problem, which is why we have invested significantly in tackling it in recent years. We have invested in extra policing and the establishment of the Scottish crime and drug enforcement agency.

Photo of Phil Gallie Phil Gallie Conservative

The minister said:

"drugs most commonly cause insanity in those who have never taken them."

I promise him that I am not trying to be insulting, but will he tell me which side of the divide he is on? Is he talking from experience or is he on the insane side?

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

What I have said about whether people should take drugs is perfectly clear. I have never taken drugs—indeed, I abhor drugs—and I hope that David Cameron will be as clear and prescriptive in such debates as I am being.

We have invested in the police and in additional resources for treatment and rehabilitation because we believe that more needs to be done, particularly where children are growing up in drug-addicted households.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

No, thank you. I have only a short time.

Drug addicts must be helped to move towards drug-free lifestyles. A range of interventions is appropriate in that respect, which is why I have asked officials to consider what is being done about encouraging abstinence, about methadone and about alternatives. However, we must keep a sense of perspective. Methadone has made a clear and proven contribution to introducing stability to people's lives; equally, people—including those in the Conservative party and in all the other parties that are represented in the Parliament—are right to be concerned about it. However, medical doctors—not academic doctors or politicians—should decide whether methadone or an alternative should be used, although we must be assured about its use and ask questions about people who are on it, despite its proven success.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour

The minister will be aware that the issue has come into sharp focus in my constituency in the past week and that there is serious concern that heroin addicts might be stabilised as permanent methadone addicts. Will he confirm that the objective is to get people off drugs and not to stabilise them on methadone for ever?

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

Absolutely. That takes me to the point that I was about to make. We must identify suitable treatment and a range of alternatives, but we need protocols for use. We must know who is responsible for allocating treatment, that there is a comprehensive care plan and an exit strategy for people who are on methadone and that someone has responsibility for monitoring the use and reduction of methadone and for getting people off it. At the end of the process, other things must be done to get people into stable lifestyles. We must ensure that they are helped into training and employment, for example. That is why we want the Scottish centre for healthy working lives to focus on helping people back into employment, but there are no easy solutions in that respect.

It is right to say that we need more information—that has already been mentioned. More information is needed about the number of addicts, where they are, what drugs they are on and the length of time that they have been on them. As a result, we have taken steps through the Scottish drug misuse database to improve the collection of data to help to shape and improve services. We need to give thought to the issue and we need consensus, not sterile, futile and—frankly—infantile political slogans.

I move amendment S2M-4073.3, to leave out from "notes" to end and insert:

"recognises that drug abuse destroys lives and tears families apart; recognises that more needs to be done, particularly to support and protect children in drug misusing households; believes that there should be an early intervention strategy; believes that there is a need to help addicts to move towards a drug-free lifestyle by offering a range of interventions; believes that for those on methadone there should be a care plan which includes an exit strategy from methadone use; believes that there should be an education programme which continues to reinforce the dangers of taking drugs; believes that employability issues should be addressed as part of re-establishing a drug-free stable lifestyle, and welcomes the enhancements to the Scottish Drugs Misuse Database which should lead to an improvement in the collection of data to help shape and target investment and services."

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 10:40 am, 9th March 2006

The content of the amendment in my name does not diverge widely from that of the Executive's amendment. I had hoped, therefore, that the Presiding Officer would adjudicate and not accept the Executive's amendment so that the Executive could support my amendment, but that did not happen. That is life. Ho hum.

It is important to consider three strands in the debate on drugs. First, we must help to move addicts towards a drug-free future. I do not think that any member would object to that statement. More controversially, however, it must be said that not every addict will complete that journey—it is simply not possible for every addict to do so—but we should continue to offer those who cannot complete it every form of help that we can to move further along it and look after them as addicts, and possibly addicts who still use drugs, which they might remain. However, that is a long-stop second-best option.

Secondly, we must stop as many people as possible being captured as addicts. That strategy matters for our young people in particular, and my colleague Fiona Hyslop will say more about it.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I cannot, as I have only four minutes.

Fundamentally, we must change the whole environment in which drug barons make immense profits. Number 10's policy unit, the Cabinet Office, has suggested that the profit margin in the illegal drugs industry is one of the highest margins for industries in the United Kingdom. Until we make progress towards reducing the profit levels and eliminating the pull for drug barons to turn to such an occupation, we will not change the environment. Reducing such profit levels ain't easy—indeed, if any member claims that they know how they can be reduced tomorrow, they simply do not understand the problem, or they are gratuitously misrepresenting it.

I want to mention a few details. There are around 51,000 heroin addicts—there used to be 55,000, so the figure is slightly down. As Neil McKeganey has said, more than half the number of addicts would like to get off drugs altogether and around 5 per cent of them want harm reduction. Are we helping them? We must provide residential programmes. Methadone is merely a bridge to abstinence and to greater help. In 2003-04, there were only around 1,200 placements on residential programmes. If that figure is set against the number of addicts, we can conclude that it will be 25 years before today's addicts are treated. That is a huge problem.

I recognise that more money has been made available. In 1999, there was £11.3 million for residential programmes, but more than twice that amount of money is now available. Therefore, some of the right things are being done, but we should not pretend that what is being done will solve the problem overnight. Incidentally, despite the Tories' protestations, I know where all the clinics for drug users are because they are listed in the Executive's research document, "Residential detoxification and rehabilitation services for drug users: A review." As usual, the Tories would rather go for soundbites than sound research.

We can debate the size of the industry, but it is worth in the range of £1.5 billion to as much as £5 billion. If it is worth £5 billion, it is the same size as our tourism industry. That is why we must focus on it and why we support every possible effort that the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency is making to tackle the drug barons head-on. Until we succeed in tackling them, we will not solve the problem.

I move amendment S2M-4073.1, to leave out from "notes" to end and insert:

"acknowledges that drug abuse creates feelings of hopelessness, despair and low self-worth in individuals and communities; recognises that drug misusers are individuals who will vary widely as to the best approach to address their addictions and therefore dismisses single dogmatic solutions to this complex problem; believes that the Scottish Executive should focus resources on appropriate support and child protection measures for children in drug misusing families; notes that access to support for addicts varies widely across Scotland; recommends that substantial additional resources are focused on addiction services and on recovering profits from illegal drugs trade barons, and calls on all in public life to make common cause in the fight against drug misuse."

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP 10:44 am, 9th March 2006

Drug use and misuse continues to spawn real, difficult and complex problems for our country and our communities. More than six years ago, in January 2000, we debated drug misuse across the road in one of the first major debates in the Scottish Parliament's first session.

At the time, I said on behalf of the Scottish Socialist Party that we rejected the consensus-based approach that determined that we should invest primarily in drug enforcement, police and a criminal attitude to the drug problem. I argued that a step change in attitudes was required, which recognised that the drug problem in Scotland is primarily a social and health problem, not primarily a criminal problem. If that is recognised, a shift in the resources that are expended to tackle the problem is required.

During the debate, I pointed out that in 1998 there were 365 recorded premature deaths related to heroin misuse—one a day—across the United Kingdom. In 2004, there were 356 heroin-related premature deaths in Scotland alone. The 1998 figure was for the whole UK, but the 2004 figure almost surpassed it in one country. In other words, the approach that we have adopted since the Parliament was established and in previous decades is not helping us to solve the problem. In fact, we have more premature deaths, increased addiction and increased crime. There has been an increase in the number of seizures and arrests, but that is not solving the problem, because we are not approaching it in the right way.

We believe fundamentally that part of our approach should be to shift investment from enforcement and beefing up the police into care, treatment and rehabilitation. At the time of the debate in 2000, official figures showed that for every £1 spent on drug treatment and care, £3 would be saved under other budget headings. Today it is not a saving of £3, but a saving of £9—such is the effect of that expenditure.

A shift in investment needs to be allied to changes in our drug laws, which are part of the problem, not the solution. We must end the criminalisation of millions of people for using cannabis, in order to focus on the real and serious dangers of that drug. Let us address those dangers through an adult, mature debate, instead of criminalising people for using a drug that is certainly harmful, but no more so than alcohol or tobacco. Let us take those users out of the criminal market and pilot the use of heroin substitution, as has been done in Germany and Switzerland with great success. Let us learn those lessons in order to take on the drug barons where it matters. The biggest opponents to the approach to drugs that I have outlined are not in the chamber but outside it, in the criminal drug networks. The way in which to undermine those networks is to take them on by removing their markets.

I move amendment S2M-4073.2, to leave out from first "believes" to end and insert:

"calls for a radical overhaul of the unhelpful drugs laws which cause more problems rather than providing solutions; further calls for a pilot scheme to be initiated into the prescribing of heroin under clinical conditions; calls for massive investment in drug rehabilitation and treatment, based on the fact that it is nine times more effective to treat drug addicts than pay the cost of drug-related crime, and calls for a recognition of the role of extended family members, particularly grandparents, in supporting and protecting children in families where there is drug misuse."

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat 10:49 am, 9th March 2006

Regrettably, there is confusion at the heart of the Conservative motion that we are debating this morning. The Conservatives are calling for a zero tolerance drugs strategy in Scotland, which is a major policy shift.

What should such a strategy look like? It could look like the strategy that was adopted in New York, which had many innocent victims because it did not include a new needle and syringe programme. By 1996, New York city had reported 17,000 paediatric AIDS cases. As well as meaning that there were no needle, syringe or water programmes, a zero tolerance approach would mean that there were no maintenance programmes—involving methadone, for example. It would involve compulsory treatment or sending people to jail, stopping the provision of any advice that resembled harm minimisation because it might send the wrong message or promote drug use, and expelling children from school if they were caught with drugs. The new Conservative policy is to abolish advice and harm minimisation.

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

I understand the diffidence of any Liberal Democrat in contributing to this debate. I make crystal clear that since the Parliament was established the Conservative party has consistently expressed huge concern about the permissive attitude to the use of illegal drugs that exists in Scotland. Zero tolerance simply means a change in culture and attitude. From everything that we have said in ensuing debates, it is obvious exactly what our view is. I have been asking for support to be provided.

Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative

That was a very long intervention. I will compensate Jeremy Purvis for it, although I scarcely have any time to do so.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

I am grateful, Presiding Officer. Miss Goldie's intervention was as incoherent as her opening speech. A zero tolerance approach would start to reverse the trend of a 35 per cent increase in the most recent year for which figures are available in the number of new entrants into drug misuse database programmes. The figure refers to people who have embarked on reduction programmes. Such an approach would also reverse the 30 per cent fall in the number of people injecting drugs, which is one of the most dangerous ways of taking them.

The Conservatives have consistently attacked the Executive and the know the score campaign, especially for sending mixed messages, as Miss Goldie said. However, at the same time as they were making that attack up here, David Cameron was proposing to downgrade ecstasy from its status as a class A drug. Who is right? The Executive is right, and Mr Cameron was also right when he told a meeting last year:

"What people want is a realistic and sensible policy that gets to the bottom of the drugs problem."

It is clear that the Scottish Tories are the blocks to reform in the area.

What is the current scale of the drugs problem in Scotland? "Drug Misuse Statistics Scotland 2005" shows us that in 2004 7.7 per cent of people between 16 and 59 had used drugs in the previous year. The figure for the 16 to 19 age group was 22 per cent, but 21.3 per cent had taken cannabis. I do not claim that there is no problem—far from it. Drugs destroy lives and young people's aspirations, impoverish people and harm their physical and mental health.

During the February recess, I had a meeting in Parliament with 20 young people on a Fairbridge scheme. All were offenders and drug misusers. Those young people are not evil—they have damaged their health and the communities in which they live. They are certainly not helped by a facile call for zero tolerance. What they said to me in unison was very interesting. They had no view on whether decriminalising cannabis would make a bit of difference to their drug-taking patterns, but they argued strongly against the cheap availability of alcohol and its availability to people at a young age. All had started binge drinking at a very early age.

The figures for entrants to drug and alcohol programmes in the area that I represent are concerning. In 2004, there were 21 new entrants under 15 to drug schemes in the Borders, compared with 13 in greater Glasgow. There is a problem. However, one of the most extensive reviews of the effectiveness of treatment that has ever been done in Scotland found that methadone should be used. I have called for more residential abstinence programmes, which come with rehabilitation. They start with harm stabilisation and move to reduction, as the deputy minister said.

Miss Goldie's motion points to the number of drug-related deaths. There were 356 such deaths in 2004, fewer than in 2002 but more than in 1996. There were 313 deaths from mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol and twice that number from chronic liver disease. We need to have the debate, but let us have it free from hypocrisy.

Photo of Charlie Gordon Charlie Gordon Labour 10:53 am, 9th March 2006

Addiction destroys lives and wrecks families. However, in treating addiction, it is sterile and unhelpful to contrapose total abstinence to harm reduction measures. A range of options is needed although, of course, freedom from addiction is the ultimate aim.

In tackling the effects of addiction, let us not overlook its principal cause: poverty, despair about which often leads individuals into addiction. The Executive's principal policy aim—economic regeneration—can attack addiction's roots and undermine the illicit drugs economy in the process.

More people than ever are getting treatment for their drug addiction, and the use of drugs by schoolchildren is not rising, despite recent high-profile cases. The use of methadone as part of an individual's treatment is one of the range of options that are available. Where it is in use in family homes, child protection issues can arise, as in the recent tragic case in East Lothian. That is why the First Minister called for a review of Scotland's methadone programme.

Glasgow's experience in tackling addiction is illustrative of the points that I have just made. The city has 11,000 drug addicts, around 7,000 of whom are on methadone. However, they are not parked. Two thousand of Glasgow's addicts are parents; they care for a total of about 4,000 children. By any standards, those are major challenges. How is the city coping? Glasgow City Council and Greater Glasgow NHS Board formed an addiction services partnership 21 months ago. The partnership provides specialist in-patient services, day-hospital services, out-patient services, methadone programme services and community addiction teams. There are 10 front-line teams with nursing, medical and social care specialists, who provide direct access to treatment and care for individuals with addiction problems. The service that is provided includes advice, support, rehabilitation and access to a methadone programme. The staff in the front-line teams train jointly with, and are co-located with, children and families social workers, so they are always on the lookout for hidden harm to children.

Glasgow has 800 community-based rehabilitation places, which provide structured day care, personal development programmes and access to productive daily activities for individuals—many of whom are on methadone—whose previous lifestyles were characterised by drug injecting, shop lifting and prostitution.

Glasgow's minimum guarantee to some 5,000 of its methadone users is to provide regular access to social care support through the community addiction teams to enable them to move on to meaningful employment and training opportunities with a strong rehabilitative content. The addiction services have referred 2,100 individuals to employment, training and educational initiatives in the past 18 months. Glasgow appears to be going in the right direction, but there are still gaps in services, which are being discussed with the Executive.

What I have described bears no relation to the bleak caricature that was painted by Annabel Goldie, nor should it be supplanted by her simplistic, tried, tested and failed approach of, "Just say no."

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party 10:57 am, 9th March 2006

I will focus not on the cures, but on the causes. Other members will debate the rights and wrongs of methadone; I agree that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution.

I want to look back on an inquiry that the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee conducted in 1999 and 2000—the report was published in 2000. Unfortunately, much of what was said in that report pertains today. The report began by saying that the committee

"had the impression, which was subsequently confirmed, that deprived communities, with poor housing, poor amenities and high levels of unemployment were the most seriously affected areas."

I heard what Charlie Gordon said about Glasgow. One welcomes initiatives that work, but the reality is that because of the deprivation in some council wards in Glasgow, people are 200 times more likely to be admitted to hospital with a drug-related problem in those areas than in the most affluent parts of Scotland.

Such deprivation is no longer located only in our urban conurbations; it exists in our small towns and rural areas, too. The minister referred to the Scottish drug misuse database, which is very useful. The most recent information reveals that last year in the Scottish Borders 31 young people under the age of 16 were reported to the database. That figure is an increase of 72 per cent on the previous year.

As we know, deprivation exists not only in urban areas. There are particular difficulties for rural areas because young people there do not usually access either heroin or cocaine, but take what comes down in a suitcase from the urban areas. Members of drug action teams in the Borders have told me that such young people take a cocktail of drugs, which makes their problems more difficult. Access to support and treatment is difficult in rural areas because people do not want to be identified, but in a small community it is easy for people to know who they are. If treatment is available anywhere, the person is likely to have to make a long journey for which they might not have the bus fare because they have a chaotic lifestyle. The problems are compounded in rural areas.

Deprivation has a knock-on effect on the family and when the system breaks down, the family can become a drug-using family. There are no simple answers. What the First Minister said was well meaning, but we must be careful, in certain circumstances, about removing children from parents who are drug users. The law of unintended consequences might mean that women and men who have children will not admit to using drugs because they fear that their children will be removed. I appreciate that the issue is delicate and difficult, but it must be addressed.

We must always remember that drug users are themselves victims. In the unfortunate case in East Lothian, we must remember that there is a mother whose child has died as a result of her drug addiction. That point must always be taken into account and we should not play the blame game. Such people are often deprived, they are often homeless and they are often put into prostitution. There are issues about the role of Cornton Vale, because most of the women are in there for committing acquisitive crimes to pay for drugs. When they come out of Cornton Vale, they find that support systems are not in place.

It is all very well to say that we support the families, but 35 per cent of all social work posts have been vacant for more than six months and The Herald reveals today that there is a damaging shortage of foster carers. I know from speaking to people in the Borders that children are brought to foster carers in the Borders because there is nobody in Glasgow to provide that service.

Those are serious issues. I know why we are pushed for time—I understand the Conservatives' point—but we should have a long debate on the issue. I would like the Communities Committee to go back to the 2000 report and investigate what has changed.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative 11:01 am, 9th March 2006

If anyone has not read "Curse or cure"—the article on methadone in the Holyrood magazine—it is well worth a read.

I regret the tone of the minister's speech, which demeaned his office and did not add to a mature debate.

I welcome the initiatives that Charlie Gordon outlined in his speech. We must examine best practice and I think that we are all big enough to do that. However, I did not welcome all of his speech; obviously, I did not welcome the last sentence.

I welcome this debate on drug abuse and the prominence that Annabel Goldie has given to the issue since she became our leader. The media spotlight in the Highlands this week has been on the Danielle Reid case and the failure of the social work department and others to protect a vulnerable child from her own family. Sadly, we seem to hear of children being left in vulnerable situations all too often. An estimated 50,000 children throughout Scotland now live with drug and alcohol misuse problems. In a recent letter to me, Highland Council confirmed that it provides support for 2,017 children, 390 of whom are in care. It also confirmed that 93 per cent of the 150 children on the child protection register are affected by parents with substance misuse problems.

Professor Neil McKeganey suggested recently that there could be up to 630 children in the Highlands who live with parents who misuse substances.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative

No. Sorry.

Those figures are shocking, given the recent cases of Michael McGarrity; the 11-year old who collapsed at school after taking heroin; and the tragic case, which was mentioned by John Home Robertson, of the two-year old whose death was reported at the weekend.

When we look round the idyllic surroundings of the Highlands, which are a world away from urban dereliction, it is difficult to imagine that young children could be suffering at the hands of their parents because they are unfit to care for them. One option would be to give parents of young children the choice of detox and rehab. It would be naive to suggest that that is an easy answer for all drug addicts, but it could surely be one option when the well-being and welfare of a child is at risk. As other members have said, many addicts, before they seek help, have led chaotic lives that have impacted on other family members. Addicts have often lost jobs and family relationships have broken down.

Unfortunately, detox and rehab is not part of the Executive's waiting times initiative. If it were, many people in the Highlands would be delighted to be seen within 26 weeks, but the truth is that the latest figures that are available, from July to September 2005, show that only nine people in the Highlands were given treatment for their drug addiction, while 89 others waited on a list. Of those 89 people, a third waited for more than a year. A response from Hugh Henry to a parliamentary question indicates that, throughout Scotland, more than 130 people waited for more than a year to get on to detox and rehab. When someone has reached the stage of asking for help, they usually need it desperately. It is cruel and heartless for them to be told to wait for up to and beyond a year, particularly when places are available in the independent sector.

We can criticise and condemn parents who take heroin and other drugs and we can justifiably criticise the more addictive substance of methadone. However, what the Liberal-Labour Executive should be ashamed of is that when people seek the help and support that they need, not just for themselves but for their families, it is not there.

Photo of Paul Martin Paul Martin Labour 11:05 am, 9th March 2006

Much has been said in the debate about the link between poverty and drug addiction. However, I want to pay tribute to the people who live in poverty but make positive life choices and care effectively for their children. We do them a disservice by saying that everyone who lives in poverty will find themselves going into prostitution, for example, and developing drug and other addictions. I pay tribute to the good parents I see every day in my constituency, who live in real poverty but make positive lifestyle choices. We should pay tribute to such parents, who are in the majority. However, I accept that there are those who suffer because of drug addiction and that they should be supported by an appropriate process.

I was enthused by the report that we received from Children 1st, which talked about the need to focus on the support of the wider family for those who suffer from drug addiction. From my experience of being an elected member for 13 years, I know that the support that is provided to the wider family could be improved throughout local authorities in Scotland. A great deal needs to be done to improve the systems that are in place. I welcome the fact that the social work review will consider the mechanisms that support families and try to ensure that they are supported more effectively. I do not think that we take sufficient account of the financial implications of not supporting families through the process and ensuring that wider family networks can support the parents and children of drug abusers.

Too often in the Parliament we do not recognise that we do not have all the answers on this issue, although we tend to say that we do. A wide range of organisations throughout Scotland, in addition to those that support drug users, can play a role in this area.

We have talked about the methadone programme and Annabel Goldie raised relevant points around the need for us to assess how effective that programme has been throughout its existence. More effective research must be put in place to ensure that such assessment is done.

The majority of youngsters in our schools do not involve themselves in drug addiction; we must recognise that and pay tribute to them. However, we must ensure that we support those who face challenges because of drug addiction. I support the amendment in the name of Hugh Henry.

Photo of Patrick Harvie Patrick Harvie Green 11:08 am, 9th March 2006

Paul Martin began by paying tribute to individuals who make positive choices in their lives and he was right to do so. However, we should also pay tribute to other groups of people. They are the people—I have met some of them in Paul Martin's constituency—who not only make positive choices in their own lives, but work hard in their communities to encourage others to make such choices. Those people include police officers and addiction workers, and social workers who should be given the credit that they are due. It is wrong and simplistic to consider a high-profile case, however tragic and heartrending, and put the problem down, simplistically, to failure by social workers. Not only is that the wrong position to take, but it demeans a group of hard-working professionals who rarely get the credit that they are due.

Each amendment to the motion has something that I can welcome. The amendments and the motion recognise that victims of addiction are people whose welfare should be important to us. We must reject the tabloid simplicity of dehumanising stereotypes and recognise that people who are addicted are human beings. I believe—almost as an article of faith, to be honest—that human behaviour is purposeful and motivated; even self-destructive and harmful behaviour is purposeful and motivated. Human beings have a range of different experiences, attitudes, values and motivations. For that reason, a range of different responses is called for from us as policy makers and lawmakers, and from public services.

My reason for rejecting the Conservative motion is not about flexibility of approach. I do not always agree with what Annabel Goldie says, but I take on trust the sincerity with which she raised concerns about methadone. However, I believe that the approaches of "zero tolerance" and "abstinence", to which the motion refers, have been shown not to work, not only in this country but around the world. That is why I reject the Conservative motion.

The amendments all mention flexibility and taking different approaches and we should acknowledge that. The SNP amendment dismisses single, dogmatic solutions to a complex problem and calls for additional resources. Tommy Sheridan said that additional resources should be allocated to treatment and rehabilitation and that there should be a move away from the purely enforcement approach. I think that that is right.

I also think that politicians, not only here but at United Kingdom level, need to allocate far greater political priority and resources to tackling the production end of the problem. How many of us could honestly say that, if the choice that we were faced with was starvation for our families and violence from the local warlord versus producing poppies, we would not produce poppies? I do not know how many of us could say that. We need to ensure that the poppy farmers can make other choices. I would support, in the short term, buying the stuff in order to destroy it, if that was about creating a long-term future for the farmers.

Far more has been said in the debate than I have time to respond to. I am grateful to the Conservatives for the opportunity to discuss the subject, but I will not support their motion.

Photo of Mary Mulligan Mary Mulligan Labour 11:13 am, 9th March 2006

I am conscious of time, so I will restrict my comments to two particular areas: methadone and children in drug-abusing families.

As has been said, methadone is one way of stabilising the chaotic lifestyles of heroin addicts. To think that it is other than just one of the options is naive. Annabel Goldie's suggestion was that we should make more use of the residential treatment approach. As a short-term option, that is successful. We have seen the rich and famous take advantage of residential treatment. However, that approach means that an addict will eventually go back into the circumstances that probably caused their addiction. That is fine for the rich and famous, who can continue to go back and forth to the Betty Ford Center or whatever, but it is not an option for many others.

We have considered how to stabilise people's lifestyles and we know that some heroin users' lives are so chaotic that to expect them to stop taking heroin and re-establish a regular lifestyle is too demanding and doomed to failure. However, the use of methadone should not be regarded as an end in itself. It should be part of a programme that stabilises addicts, before also withdrawing them from methadone use. I recognise that that may be a long process—for some, it might seem like forever—but it could be necessary.

We should not think of methadone substitution as anything other than part of a process. Members referred to the tragic circumstances in East Lothian when a toddler who took his parents' prescribed methadone died. I agree that the practice of taking methadone without supervision must be reviewed. However, I understand why addicts are given scripts to take away with them. The administration of methadone in pharmacies has caused people, perhaps unnecessarily, to feel threatened by the practice. I ask the minister to look further into identifying places where those who are prescribed methadone can take their dose privately and safely.

We have already referred to the tragic death of the toddler in East Lothian, and there have been other recent examples of young people affected by drug abuse—the young girl in Glasgow who was found to be using drugs, and the toddler in Edinburgh who was left to care for himself for a number of weeks after his mother died.

There is clearly concern about how children are affected when their parents or carers are using drugs. The First Minister has been criticised for saying that the best interests of the children should be the first priority. Some regarded that as an attack on social workers. Like Patrick Harvie, I would decry any such attack, but I did not regard the First Minister's words as an attack on social workers.

Social workers try to keep families together, and politicians should acknowledge that they put pressure on social workers to act as they do. For many good reasons, the policy has been to keep children with their parents; but the policy has not said clearly enough that keeping children with their parents is not ideal for all children. We should always consider the individual circumstances. Yes, we should support parents when possible but, as Children 1st has suggested, we should also consider the extended family and foster carers. Alternatives should exist and we must consider them. However, at the end of the day, the best interests of the children should be our priority.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP 11:16 am, 9th March 2006

Mary Mulligan ended with a reference to the use of foster carers as part of a support network for children in the households of drug-abusing adults. She is right. We should try to expand the use of foster care.

I want to put a point to the minister that I hope he will address when he sums up. We have to make use of an untapped resource—grandparents who can support children of drug-abusing households. I will quote from an excellent leaflet by the new fossils, which is a grandparents support group based in the east end of Glasgow:

"When the social workers arrived at Jean's home with her two grandchildren they only had the clothes they stood in. Jean had no toys, beds, bedding and little money. After six weeks Jean could not afford to buy an Electricity Power Card. She and the children would spend weekends in the dark sharing one bed. In desperation Jean sought assistance from a local charity."

Then there is another story:

"Charlie and Janet are both retired and with social work approval took their eight-week-old grandchild direct from hospital rather than have her placed in care. They received no financial support for clothes, cot, toys, bedding....nothing. For seven months they struggled to claim child benefits and income support because of the 'system' and had to use up much of their savings (at least they had some....many do not)."

I ask the minister, if we are going to pay for foster carers and a foster care network, why do we not offer grandparents financial support for the grandchildren they take into care? The majority of grandparents do not have the financial wherewithal to support children. It is way beyond time that the Executive made the radical decision to accord the same financial rights to grandparents who care for the children of drug-abusing parents that it accords to foster carers. That would be an important move.

Photo of John Swinburne John Swinburne SSCUP

The machinery is already in place, but many of the 32 councils in the country do not make use of it. Up north, kinship carers receive £150 for each child. That should be expanded across the whole country. Some areas give nothing.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Thank you, John—that is exactly why I am raising these issues. I would like the minister to give us a positive indication that he supports such a step change.

I would also like the minister to comment on prison aftercare. Many premature drug-related deaths in Scotland are of drug addicts released from prison. Many of them die within two weeks of release because they use drugs of exceptional purity that they are not used to. We do not have enough pre-release programmes or post-release care. Can the minister tell me that we now have a seamless, joined-up approach that links community-based care with work done by the prison authorities?

Today's debate has been useful. We have not arrived at all the solutions, but we know that the simplistic, "Just say no", zero-tolerance approach of the Tories has been tried and tested and has failed over many decades. It is time to concentrate more resources on drug treatment and care, and to address the ridiculous drug laws that are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Photo of Mike Pringle Mike Pringle Liberal Democrat 11:21 am, 9th March 2006

Drug abuse endangers the lives of many people across Scotland. Around a third of all recorded crime is linked to drug abuse, and there are 800 drug-related offences each week. I agree with Tommy Sheridan and my colleague Jeremy Purvis about cannabis; perhaps if we took a more liberal approach, we could substantially reduce the number of drug-related offences that come to court.

Each year, more than 300 babies are born addicted to heroin or other illegal drugs. In 2004, 356 people died drug-related deaths. The minister referred to the number of children—60,000 under the age of 16—who live with a parent with a drug problem.

Mary Mulligan mentioned Children 1st. I am sure that we all know about that organisation's family group conference service. It is a method of decision making that draws on the strengths of the wider family in finding how best to care for a child. Almost always, it is the grandparents who get involved.

I agree with Stewart Stevenson that the main task is to keep young people off drugs. Annabel Goldie mentioned the number of people under the age of 20 who get on to drugs. We have to help young people, male and female, to keep off drugs or never get on to them in the first place. I am not talking only about cannabis and other drugs, but about alcohol too.

Liberal Democrats are committed to moving away from imprisoning offenders and using enforcement to reduce reoffending. The emphasis must be on helping people to achieve a healthy lifestyle; it must not be on merely locking them away for having failed to achieve a healthy lifestyle in the past. Drugs courts will play an important role. Pilot drugs courts in Fife and Glasgow have proved successful—both in reducing use and in reducing reoffending. I therefore suggest that the Executive expand the scheme nationally.

To help people to achieve a healthy lifestyle, it is important to increase the number of people who enter treatment each year. Drug treatment is both successful and cost effective. It costs £30,000 a year to imprison a person, but the most intensive community-based drug treatment costs no more than £7,000. Almost half the offenders who have completed a drug-treatment programme have had no further convictions within two years.

The Scottish Executive has pledged an additional £6 million a year to support drug services—an increase of more than 23 per cent from the figure for 2004-05. The Executive should continue to support such treatment options.

Rehabilitation is a necessary part of reducing drug abuse. A programme that prioritises abstinence and prevention fails those who are already suffering from drug abuse. Rehabilitation serves as a type of prevention by reducing the risk of reoffending. I entirely agree with Paul Martin, Patrick Harvie and others about the dedication of the people who work in various rehabilitation services. I also agree that the vast majority of our kids are good and positive for society. In most of the issues that we have talked about in this debate, the number of children involved is small.

My Conservative colleague's suggestion to implement a programme prioritising abstinence fails to take into account the complexity of the issues. Instead, we must combat drug abuse by adopting a multifaceted approach that tackles each aspect of the problem. The most effective way of dealing with Scotland's drug situation is to cut the demand for drugs through rehabilitation and the adoption of a twin-track approach of harm prevention and reduction. A complex and dangerous issue requires a nuanced and integrated approach.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party 11:25 am, 9th March 2006

If the debate has a theme, it is about methadone, whether the country has moved on and whether people can move on. If the debate has a subtext, it is about whether the Government and the Parliament have made progress in how they tackle drug use.

At the Scottish Parliament's inception in 1999-2000, drugs was an issue that brought all the parties together. There was common agreement that it was not a justice issue only, but that it had health, social care and a variety of other dimensions. I fear that the impetus that was built up by the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee, the Parliament and the Executive is in danger of being lost.

Many good points have been made in the debate, but they were also made many years ago. The Parliament's job is to scrutinise suggestions and proposals and to ensure that agreements to make progress on certain matters are honoured. That is why the Conservatives are right to air their concerns about the use of methadone. We should review the progress that has been made as a result of methadone use but, in doing so, we should not be judgmental; that is why the Tories' position is a failure.

Photo of Fiona Hyslop Fiona Hyslop Scottish National Party

I am sorry, but my time is limited.

I commend everyone who has sought to make changes in how we tackle the problem. In 2000, the Parliament had a full-day debate on drug misuse. I remember the conviction of Richard Simpson, Angus MacKay and Iain Gray in driving forward the Executive's proposals. Paul Martin and Tommy Sheridan have made points about family support that were addressed in recommendations 12, 13 and 14 of the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee's report on its inquiry into drug misuse and deprived communities, which was published in 2000. What has happened to the children's change fund? Is it providing family support groups with sufficient support? In 2000, only one social inclusion partnership gave financial help to family support groups. If there is any lesson that we can take away from the debate, it is that the Parliament must refocus its attention on its scrutiny role, because there are measures that could and should be being taken.

I turn to the use of methadone as a treatment for drug addiction. The Executive responded favourably to recommendation 23 in the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee's report, which said that methadone programmes should be expanded. The information that Charlie Gordon provided about Glasgow was extremely helpful. Such activity should be part of a regular scrutiny process because I am not convinced that progress is as rapid as it should be.

I have some specific points about children. My concern is that if tackling drug use is to be a national cause, as well as being hard on ourselves, we must scrutinise the Government on the issue. I object to the First Minister making presumptions about where children should go, when the Executive has not delivered on its promises.

In November 2002, the Executive launched its child protection report, "It's everyone's job to make sure I'm alright". The deadline on the proposals to improve information sharing expired in November 2005. Those proposals, which were about getting the police and health, education and social work services to work together, could have helped to prevent some of the problems that have been experienced and some of the tragedies that we have heard about. The Executive has failed to deliver a computer programme for producing integrated assessments that would help to deal with such situations and which would assist fieldworkers on the ground.

When it comes to tackling drugs, everyone has responsibilities. It is a complex area, so there is no single solution. It is easy to preach zero tolerance, but we must take our responsibilities seriously. Rather than spout platitudes, let us have accountability and scrutiny.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour 11:29 am, 9th March 2006

Unfortunately, because of a lack of time, I will not be able to answer all the questions that members have asked, but I will be happy to respond to any member who wishes to write to me.

Fiona Hyslop posed a number of valid questions. Although I would argue that, in some areas, we have delivered and moved on, she was right to say that Parliament needs to scrutinise what the Executive has done. We must think carefully about whether what we have delivered has had the appropriate effect or whether there is more to be done. I hope that in a spirit of working together, Parliament and the Executive can reflect on what we have done. Such a debate would be useful.

Stewart Stevenson mentioned education and the need to raise people's awareness of the harm that drugs do to stop them becoming addicts in the first place. The Conservatives have repeatedly made unfortunate comments about the know the score campaign. Some of our material is highly specific and extremely hard-hitting. We have produced adverts on heroin and cocaine that are blunt and to the point. If Annabel Goldie or any other member of the Parliament wants to sit down with me and my officials to examine the material and to discuss whether it is getting the message across or whether we need to change it in any way, I will arrange that. Some of our adverts, featuring programmes such as "Hollyoaks" and "EastEnders", have had national recognition—they have featured on "News at Ten"—which shows that what we are saying is the right way to get a message across.

Mary Scanlon spoke about the provision of help and treatment, but we have made available extra resources. When we announced that we would provide an additional £4 million in 2004, we insisted that organisations would have to reduce waiting times if they wanted to get some of that allocation. Other comments have been made, which I do not have time to address.

The Conservatives were upset by the comments that I made earlier. They do not like it when people such as me are fairly blunt about the crude message that they put across. Perhaps I should reflect on the language that we use, but perhaps they should do so, too. When I listen to what the Tories say, I sometimes get angry. On such an issue, I am genuinely disappointed that they will not work with members of other parties to reach a sensible conclusion. It is in the interests of everyone in our society for us to put aside petty views and to work together.

I hope that if Annabel Goldie and the Tories will not listen to me, they might listen to David Cameron. Although I do not agree with what David Cameron says on a range of issues, including some drugs issues, I think that the Tories should listen to his views on a zero tolerance approach, for example. At the Scottish Tories' conference, Annabel Goldie described David Cameron as a joy and said that he was their political adrenaline. Perhaps Bill Aitken should listen to some of David Cameron's comments. He thinks that the debate has been held back because

"Politicians attempt to appeal to the lowest common denominator by posturing with tough policies and calling for crackdown after crackdown."

He also thinks that effective educational programmes are essential to reduce the demand for drugs and that it is no good just preaching to young people or telling them that drugs are all the same because they will not listen. His view is that

"The simple, bold answers are superficially attractive. Whether it is the authoritarian 'introduce life sentences for all pushers and zero tolerance on street users' or the libertarian 'legalise all drugs, destroy the black market and treat, rather than punish, those who abuse drugs', both offer seemingly easy solutions to a problem that haunts all western governments."

David Cameron is at least taking a more thoughtful approach to such matters. It is just unfortunate that the Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament are not doing the same. Even at this late stage, I appeal to the Scottish Tories to wake up, look around and be a bit more mature. As David Cameron said, drug abuse affects us all. Some people would prefer a tougher approach involving stiffer penalties, a pretence that illegal drugs are all as bad as each other and a just say no campaign for kids. I do not believe that that would work, but if we tell children the facts and explain the dangers, they might just listen; perhaps the Conservatives in Scotland might just listen, too.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative 11:34 am, 9th March 2006

An intemperate approach, such as that of Hugh Henry in his opening speech, usually indicates vulnerability, and indeed the Executive is vulnerable on the issue of drug abuse. I remind Hugh Henry that we would not be having the debate if it were not for the Conservatives. We make no apology whatever for raising the matter time and again, against a background of stark and chilling figures. In 2004, 356 deaths were caused by drug addiction. In 2004-05, there were 41,283 crimes related to drugs. It is estimated that 50,000 children in Scotland are living with drug-addicted parents, while 411,000 methadone scripts are issued at a cost of £12 million. Are we not entitled to raise this matter? Should we perhaps be raising the matter even more forcefully?

Let us be clear: the Executive's response has been woefully inadequate. It is not that it does not know, but it underestimates the scale of the problem. It is not that it does not care—it does care—but its attitude sometimes verges on complacency.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

Sorry, but I have only four minutes left.

The Executive's approach is that drug abuse is a problem that should be managed and contained and that, like the poor, drug abusers will always be with us. It need not be that way. Unless we take a different view, we will lose a generation to drug abuse and all its accompanying difficulties.

Some useful contributions have been made. Jeremy Purvis's was not one of them, but he made the commonsense point that we need this debate. He is right.

Charlie Gordon talked about Glasgow. I have some difficulties with the figures, but that might be because the city council and health board areas are not coterminous. I am surprised that there are only 11,000 drug abusers in Glasgow—perhaps that figure might need to be looked at. Charlie Gordon mentioned poverty, but Paul Martin correctly pointed out that many people from poor backgrounds lead perfectly ordered lives, so poverty is no excuse. We should address that issue.

Christine Grahame and Fiona Hyslop referred to the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee report, published in 2000, on the effects of drug abuse on poorer areas. There was much to be learned from that report. One of the most depressing aspects of the problem, which was referred to by Tommy Sheridan, is that many youngsters from Glasgow are being looked after by grandparents. The drugs problem is getting worse. In some families, there are three generations of addicts: the youngster, the parents and the grandparents. We cannot be complacent when we have a situation such as that. I reject the overall sense of Tommy Sheridan's speech, but he made the point that prison post-release care is largely missing. The Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee visited Barlinnie. Is it not ironic that there was a unit at Barlinnie to which prisoners could volunteer to go to stay off drugs? That was the only way to prevent their being tempted by drugs. What is the Executive doing to prevent continuing drug abuse in prisons? The answer is: very little indeed.

In a somewhat more conciliatory closing speech, Hugh Henry referred to various points made by David Cameron. There is nothing that the Conservatives are saying that is inconsistent with a greater degree of education about the evils of drug abuse. With the split message sent out by the Executive, such education is simply not happening. There is nothing inconsistent about a crackdown on those who seek to peddle human misery. The one thing that the Executive can perhaps claim is that drug seizures have increased, largely as a result of the commitment and effort of Grahame Pearson and others in the SDEA. Despite the Executive's inhibitions, the SDEA has made a positive impact. I do not, as Hugh Henry suggested, recollect any Conservative member saying that there should be mandatory life sentences for drug pushers. That was a misrepresentation. If I have misunderstood Hugh Henry, I fully concede, but that seemed to be the sense of what he was saying.

The Conservatives recognise that there are no simple solutions, but unless we approach the issue in a much more robust and determined manner than the Executive is prepared to do, we will continue to see many lives wasted, many crimes committed and, in many respects, an unbalanced and unstable society. Fiona Hyslop was right to say that a multi-agency approach is required. Drug abuse is not a justice or a health issue in isolation. The Executive seems unable to reconcile itself to the fact that what it is doing simply is not working. Why, for example, are drug treatment and testing orders not being made available in district courts? Why are the drugs courts geared at those with 40 or 50 convictions, when the street prostitute who is desperate to get off drugs, for example, is denied treatment? Is it not ironic that if someone wants drug treatment and rehabilitation in Glasgow, the easiest and quickest way to get it is to commit more and more crime, so that they will be sent to the drugs court? Surely that should be regarded as utterly unacceptable. The chamber should vote for the motion, as it represents the only constructive way forward for a situation that is becoming graver and graver as time advances.