Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation

– in the Scottish Parliament at 9:15 am on 20 April 2006.

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Photo of George Reid George Reid None 9:15, 20 April 2006

Good morning. The first item of business is a debate on motion S2M-4252, in the name of Rosemary Byrne, on a statutory right to drug treatment and rehabilitation.

Photo of Ms Rosemary Byrne Ms Rosemary Byrne SSP

The motion calls for a radical rethink of drug treatment and rehabilitation. It proposes the provision of a statutory right to access services within seven days of a person's seeking help and a move away from a criminal justice-oriented approach and towards one that involves health and social care. It is time to recognise that drug addiction is a health and social care issue, and that treatment and support are the means to reduce crime. The average heroin user is estimated to steal around £160,000-worth of goods and cash each year in order to buy drugs. The former Lothian and Borders chief of police, Tom Wood, who is now the Edinburgh drugs tsar, says that the majority of housebreakings committed in Edinburgh are down to drug users.

Drug users themselves talk about the revolving door, meaning that, without appropriate treatment and support, they continue on a cycle of drug-related crime, which results in a high cost to society. The national treatment outcome research study showed that a two-year treatment programme encompassing residential care, substitute prescribing and mental health care for a group of 549 users cost £2 million. That generated a cost saving to social services and the criminal justice system of £27 million. That is a ratio of 9.5:1. In other words, for every pound spent on proper treatment and rehabilitation, £9.50 is saved on criminal justice and other public expenditure.

That is why, later today, I will be lodging a proposal for a member's bill, the drug treatment and rehabilitation (Scotland) bill, and launching a consultation. I believe that drug users require holistic care plans based on individual need, offering a range of treatment and support. Services could be integrated by allocating a key person to formulate and implement the plan following the initial assessment, in conjunction with the drug user. The plan would cover family support, employability, dual diagnosis and medical treatment, as well as social and housing support. The range of treatments would include residential rehab, community-based rehab, substitute prescribing and detoxification.

The need for integrated services is clear. There are models that can be considered. The Glasgow addiction team is moving in that direction, with a four-day turnaround from the initial appointment to the treatment programme. That example needs to be replicated throughout Scotland, with equal access to services in all areas. There is a cap on methadone prescriptions in NHS Forth Valley and in NHS Ayrshire and Arran, for instance, whereas there is access without any limiting criteria in other national health service board areas.

I emphasise the need to consider alternative substitutes, including heroin and buprenorphine. Methadone is a dirty, highly addictive drug. As one ex-heroin addict asked me recently, "Why is it that the poor kids get parked on methadone while the rich kids get sent to the Priory?" That is a good question. I will return later to the question of residential rehab.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

The member said that each heroin addict steals £160,000-worth of goods each year. The Executive says that there are 51,000 heroin addicts. That makes a total of £8.16 billion per annum in thefts. Is the member trying to persuade us that that is the actual figure? That is substantially higher than any previously stated figure.

Photo of Ms Rosemary Byrne Ms Rosemary Byrne SSP

I quoted a figure that Tom Wood gave us for Edinburgh. The black market and the drug economy is a multimillion-pound industry. It would be far better to spend money on treatment and support.

Before everyone starts to think that I am advocating that we cease the prescription of methadone tomorrow, I will stress that I am not. There are two points to be made on the subject. First, methadone has stabilised many people over the years, taking them away from crime and giving them the ability to care for their families. Secondly, the reason why many people are on methadone for the long term is that we do not have adequate rehab facilities in place across the country. Getting a scrip and 20 minutes of counselling once a week or once a fortnight is hardly rehab. That is the picture in many towns, however.

For some people, residential rehab might well be the best option. At present, however, it is not a choice for most. I am calling for a range of treatment options suited to the individual. For some, that will mean rehab, be it residential, community based or one following the other. For others, detox and abstinence could be the right option, given the right support. In other words, one size does not fit all. Where detox is concerned, there needs to be a recognition that, without appropriate support, there is a great danger of relapse and overdose, which is what causes many of the drug deaths that occur.

I will expand now on the need for family support to form part of a holistic care plan. It is estimated that between 40,000 and 60,000 children in Scotland are living with drug-using parents. The effects on children, as recent cases have highlighted, can be devastating. That is why my proposed drug treatment and rehabilitation (Scotland) bill includes an assessment of family needs. That assessment needs to be non-threatening and supportive, and it should involve agencies such as Barnardo's. In a briefing issued for the debate, Barnardo's states:

"Effective intervention can be held back when agencies involved do not share information or a common understanding of the threshold for intervention. It is also problematic when the child's needs are considered in isolation but the parental substance misuse and poor parenting are not tackled."

Barnardo's states that, in its experience, the things that work include

"a joined-up approach that addresses the children's needs whilst at the same time addressing the addiction and parenting needs. There must be close co-operation between the adult and children's services to do this effectively."

Thus there is a need for integrated services and a care plan that can be implemented and reviewed on a regular basis, ensuring that access to treatment and support meets the needs of the individual. The establishment of a seven-day right to treatment will revolutionise our approach to drug addiction by putting the health and social care approach centre stage, as opposed to criminal justice, which is the current priority. The time for talking is long over. Everyone agrees that treatment and rehabilitation must be readily available. Even our First Minister recently said:

"We cannot be satisfied until there are adequate treatment and rehabilitation services in all areas of the country".

For six years, I have been campaigning in Irvine with a group called Mothers Against Drugs for the setting up of a rehab facility, following many deaths in my community and the complete devastation that that has brought. We still do not have that facility.

My proposed bill will help join up services. This morning's motion is here to advance the proposals that will be contained in the bill and to get the debate started. I hope that members will be able to support the bill and that we can at last turn around the misery that is caused in our communities through drug misuse and the crime that goes on around it. If we are to tackle the crime that is related to drugs, we must also be sure that we tackle the issues around treatment.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the continuing social and human cost of drug misuse across Scotland and that past and current policy approaches have failed communities, drug users and their families miserably; regrets the fact that drug-related crime, premature death and family breakdowns continue to rise; believes that the predominant criminal justice-oriented approach to drug-misuse problems in Scotland is not only failing to address the problems but is actually counter-productive in diverting resources and attention away from treatment and rehabilitation; further believes that a predominantly social and health-led approach is now necessary and that a statutory right to a holistic treatment and care plan should be established within a seven-day period of seeking help and should include residential care where required; considers that the introduction of such a statutory right would not only lead to improved care for users and their families, but result in significant crime reduction within communities and subsequent net savings to the public purse; further considers that cannabis use in Scotland should be decriminalised but not encouraged, that debate on the legal status of other drugs must be promoted and that substitute prescription programmes, such as the provision of heroin or buprenorphine for treatment of appropriate users, should be introduced and supported across Scotland, and believes that significant investment in community and sporting facilities to tackle poverty and offer positive recreational activities to Scotland's young people is an essential but under-invested element of anti-drug abuse strategy.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour 9:23, 20 April 2006

I know that Rosemary Byrne cares deeply about these issues and that she campaigns on them actively. There is much in what she says with which I could not disagree. In fact, she makes eminent sense on some things. However, I must disagree with some of her conclusions. While I think that the proposed bill to which she refers has some noble aspirations, from what I have heard this morning, it will not actually offer a constructive way forward in terms of practicality and effectiveness. However, we can deal with that later.

The gist of what Rosemary Byrne has to say is right, and none of us could disagree with it. We know that there is a major challenge in dealing with drug addiction in this country. At the same time, however, we must keep a sense of perspective. Despite the difficulties that we face, we are making progress. The number of problematic drug users is going down, as is the proportion of those users who are injecting. The use of drugs among schoolchildren is stable. More people than ever before are getting treatment for their drug addiction. The rate of acquisitive crime—robbery, burglary and the handling of stolen goods—fell by 24 per cent between 1999-

2000 and 2004-05. However, we cannot be complacent. We still face a major challenge, because of which we have steadily increased funding over the past seven years. We now have record levels of investment in tackling drug problems. We have put improved treatment and rehabilitation services at the heart of our approach. Our support of drug treatment services has nearly doubled since 2000. We are now investing £23.7 million per year, which means that there are more services and there is a better range of treatments. Since last year, an extra £4 million has been provided, which has resulted in more than 2,600 new clients in the period to March 2007. That is in addition to the 14,300 new clients who accessed a wide range of treatment and rehabilitation services in 2004-05.

We are committed to providing addicts and their medical advisers with a wide range of treatment and rehabilitation options, from residential detoxification and rehabilitation to community and motivational support and substitute prescribing, to which Rosemary Byrne referred. We are conducting pilot experiments in the use of buprenorphine.

We know that, despite all that work, there is no quick fix to tackling drug addiction; neither is there a single treatment option that will work for everyone, which Rosemary Byrne acknowledged.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

In no way do I wish to introduce a note of discord, but, although I acknowledge that increased resources have been allocated, I would like the minister to explain why some beds in detox centres—which are not exactly residential—are lying empty. Is that down to a shortage of resource in the local authority or the health authority?

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

It might be down to a combination of factors, including a decision by the medical people responsible for dealing with a particular addict about the appropriate course of treatment. As Rosemary Byrne acknowledged, not everyone would benefit immediately from residential rehabilitation or treatment. Beds might be lying empty because of finance or access issues, or because the medical people do not believe that particular individuals are ready for residential rehabilitation. I cannot substitute my opinion for the decisions of medical experts.

Margo MacDonald said that she did not want to introduce a note of discord. I prefaced my remarks by saying that I thought that there was a degree of consensus in the Parliament about how we should proceed. Had it not been for the vagaries of the system, we would have supported the Scottish National Party amendment, because there is much in it that we commend to the Parliament.

We need to work together on the treatment and care of drug users, because we owe it to the users, their families and their communities to deal with the real world. We know that drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition, but we also know that people's needs change and that we face a challenge. We need to ensure that people get treatment when they need it.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

The minister said earlier that he did not think that there was one way of dealing with everything. I know that he has considered the possibility of prescribing heroin rather than methadone in some cases. What progress has been made on that?

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

Currently, no doctors in Scotland are licensed to prescribe heroin. Pilot projects are being undertaken in England and we will take account of what happens there. We need to be realistic and honest about such experiments, including those in other countries. They are small-scale and apply to a small number of people for whom every other course of action has failed. Prescribing heroin is not a large-scale solution to the problem that we face. We need to get it in perspective.

I want to see more solutions. Rosemary Byrne referred to the model in Glasgow, which has combined health and social care services in partnership under single management in a community setting. It has a properly joined-up system of managed care, where services and clients can plan more easily for a beginning, middle and end to treatment for addiction. I want to visit that model and I invite my colleagues on the justice committees to join me, because I think that we could all learn from what is happening in Glasgow.

Because of the time constraints, I will skip to my conclusion. We know that drug treatment is the most effective way of reducing drug-related crime. We know that we need to put money into diversionary activities and early treatment. As the SNP has suggested, we should be spending more on trying to recover the assets of dealers in order to use them to good effect. We will continue to build on the successful model that we have already agreed.

I will leave it to others to raise the issues of the declassification, legalisation and decriminalisation of drugs, because I do not have the time to do so.

We need to support drug addicts' families and the wider community. We have a clear vision for tackling drug addiction in Scotland. Drug use is not inevitable. I agree that the long-term solution must be a drug-free life, but addicts have to get the support that they need to motivate them towards that goal. We need to give priority to children and young people. Above all, we need to say to those who are using the substantial resources that we have provided throughout Scotland that they have to be accountable for the use of that money and report back to us on how effectively it has been used.

I move amendment S2M-4252.4, to leave out from "notes" to end and insert:

"recognises that drug abuse destroys lives and tears families apart; believes that improved treatment and rehabilitation should be at the heart of our approach; further believes that there is need to help addicts to move towards a drug-free lifestyle by offering a range of interventions; welcomes the progress made but recognises that more needs to be done, particularly to make sure that treatment is linked to further support, and believes that early intervention is the most effective way of helping offenders and reducing drug-related crime."

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party 9:30, 20 April 2006

I welcome the minister's acknowledgement of what is said in the SNP amendment and, in turn, I acknowledge that the Executive's amendment reflects something that we can support. Consensus on this difficult subject is highly to be desired. The issue must be above much of the hurly-burly of party politics. The problem is far too serious for us in the major parties to spend time exercising our differences, given that the way forward will more usefully be found by our identifying what we have in common.

Of course it is proper that we debate this important subject. Rosemary Byrne explained helpfully where the figure of the £160,000 in thefts by addicts comes from. Others in the criminal justice system would suggest an average of £36,000 in thefts a year per addict, but that still leaves us with an immense problem, so let us not get bogged down in arguing about the odd billion pounds here and there. Whatever figure we come up with, we have a substantial problem.

I will refer in passing to a number of research documents that touch on the issue. The first is the report by Neil McKeganey, Zoё Morris, Joanne Neale and Michele Robertson from the centre for drug misuse research at the University of Glasgow—a highly respected institution—who conducted a survey of drug addicts' aspirations. The interesting, but not surprising, thing is that 56.6 per cent of the addicts questioned wanted to get clean and come off drugs, while a substantially smaller proportion simply sought harm reduction.

Aspiration and achievement are of course two different things. We have to support addicts as they move towards abstinence, to whatever extent they are able to make that journey. To do that, we have to tailor the interventions to the needs and abilities of addicts. There is no one-size-fits-all option. If there were, we would have solved the problem by now.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

My question relates specifically to what Stewart Stevenson has just said. In the study by Neil McKeganey, did addicts to hard drugs have a different attitude to abstention to that of perpetual users of soft drugs?

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

We are talking basically about hard drugs.

I refer members to the study, "Licit and Illicit drug use in the Netherlands, 1997" by the Centrum voor Drugsonderzoek, which was one of the most wide-ranging studies in Europe. It examined the aspirations and behaviour of 45,000 addicts and received an acceptable response from just over half that number. The summary of conclusions on page 9 of the study states:

"Cannabis use in Amsterdam, like all other illicit drug use, is highest compared to the rest of the country."

That leads us to consider whether, by being softer on cannabis, we deliver a benefit to the users of hard drugs.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I am sorry, but I do not have time.

It is perfectly clear that the approach that is taken in Amsterdam would provide a benefit in police time, but it would not touch on drug use. The study that was done in the Netherlands shows that legalising cannabis does not reduce hard drug use. If there is comparable evidence that is as soundly based and as widely surveyed and that tells a different story, I would be delighted to see it, because that would give us a way forward.

The key point to which I want to return, as I have done in previous debates, is the information gap. The Executive has said in its plans that through its substance misuse research programme it will fund research into drug users' perceptions of the risk of overdose and delays in calling for help. However, I encourage the Executive to go much further. I do not often commend what comes out of the strategy unit at number 10 Downing Street, but its annual report on drugs is very worth while. It shows the changing pattern of hard drug use, starting in the 1950s and 1960s, and suggests that in England drug-motivated crime is worth £19 billion. That is another figure, and it is not helpful to have other figures. The report also breaks down the various crimes and shows that cannabis is about four times as heavily used as heroin.

This is a useful debate, albeit a short one. Later, my colleague Maureen Watt will speak about her experience as a prison visitor in Aberdeen and other related experience. I will listen with great interest to what she has to say.

I am afraid that Miss Goldie is once again perhaps overplaying her hand. I say to Margo MacDonald that the last thing that we need is another commission.

I move amendment S2M-4252.3, to leave out from "the continuing" to end and insert:

"that the cost to communities, drug addicts and their families, and the public purse of drug misuse remains unacceptably high; believes that a range of interventions must be available to addicts across Scotland that are tailored to their individual needs; encourages the Scottish Executive to give further support to efforts to recover assets from drug barons; recognises that drug abuse is primarily a health issue but that intervention from the criminal justice system will often be the first opportunity for users to start on the road to recovery, and, in the absence of any compelling evidence, does not believe that any relaxation of the rules on drug misuse would do other than exacerbate current problems."

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative 9:36, 20 April 2006

I thank Rosemary Byrne for bringing this issue to the chamber, because it cannot be debated too often. Drug abuse has spread and continues to spread misery throughout Scotland. It kills, destroys families, leads to widespread and recurring crime, breaks up communities and corrodes society. It is essential that we use all the resources of the state not just to discourage drug abuse but to do everything possible to eliminate it.

Like the SSP, the Conservative party recognises that there is no overall proper strategy for dealing with drug abuse in Scotland. I, too, am critical of the Scottish Executive for being over-reliant on methadone, which simply aggravates the problem. I have made it clear on many occasions that the Conservative party is not opposed to the use of methadone per se. However, unlike those who believe that methadone is some sort of universal panacea, to be taken indefinitely by increasing numbers of people, we believe that it should be available as part of a range of options. I share Rosemary Byrne's reservations about methadone.

Conservatives believe that it is imperative that drug addicts are given immediate support and rehabilitation, to help them to end their addiction and to get back to leading a normal life. Reference has already been made in this morning's debate to the drug outcome research in Scotland—DORIS—study by Professor Neil McKeganey of Glasgow University. That research is interesting, because it found that, according to those who took part in it, most drug addicts who seek help do so because they want to become clean and to change their lifestyle. The drug misuse statistics for 2005 showed that the majority of individuals who came forward seeking help did not want a prescription-based solution.

Not only are individuals far too frequently left with methadone as the only option of help, but some individuals have to wait more than a year for that assistance. That cannot go on. In October 2004, the Executive published its review of drug treatment and rehabilitation services. The report highlighted the fact that more needed to be done to help those who wanted to be helped to obtain rapid access to treatment and rehabilitation. I suggest to the Executive that a simple way of providing access to treatment would be to set up a central directory of treatment and rehabilitation in Scotland, akin to that in England and Wales. The Executive has argued that similar information can be received from drug action teams in Scotland. I have tried to abstract that information from the reports of the drug action teams, but it is not easy, because they provide information only for their area.

For example, someone in Glasgow might be willing to travel to the Highlands to get help, which would remove that individual from the environment that has led to his or her drug addiction. I ask the Executive what hope an addict or their family has of finding a rehabilitation facility when the Executive does not have that information. Recently I lodged a written question asking how many places were available for drug rehabilitation in Scotland. The answer was that those data are not held centrally. That is not good enough. There is agreement in the chamber that we have a problem in Scotland. I share Stewart Stevenson's view that there is a genuine and healthy consensus about the need to move forward with constructive solutions. However, I believe that addicts and their families and friends should have easy access to as much information about help and rehabilitation as possible.

This is a short debate, and I know that many members want to speak in it. I do not have enough time to address all the points that I would like to cover. However, before I close, I want to say that I cannot agree with the SSP's solution of decriminalising cannabis and prescribing heroin. I commend to Rosemary Byrne the studies that have been carried out in Sweden, New Zealand and the Netherlands in relation to cannabis. That research makes troubling reading. Cannabis is a dangerous drug. Not only can it be a gateway drug to other, more dangerous illegal substances, but it has been linked with various mental illnesses and causes harm to the heart, lungs and immune system.

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

No—I am in the last minute of my speech.

My concern about what the SSP proposes is that it is simply another form of harm reduction. According to the Scottish Parliament information centre, there are no current GP licences in Scotland for prescribing heroin. Mr Henry referred to that fact. Apparently, a few years ago one GP in Scotland had such a licence, but it was never used. Instead of finding another drug for individuals to be parked on in the name of harm reduction, we should examine ways of helping them to lead a drug-free lifestyle.

I thank the Scottish socialists for allowing us the opportunity to debate this issue. I move amendment S2M-4252.1, to leave out from "the predominant" to end and insert:

"we need a drugs strategy which aims to reduce and ultimately eliminate drugs dependency in Scotland and that such a strategy should place an emphasis on early intervention and include a coherent education programme which prioritises abstinence, and further believes that there needs to be a radical change in the help offered to drug addicts, to provide counselling and rehabilitation rather than an over-reliance on methadone."

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent 9:42, 20 April 2006

In moving the amendment in my name, I associate myself with the motion's intention and with much of the commentary that it contains. I do not wholly approve of commentary in motions, but that is a matter for you, Presiding Officer.

In calling for more resources for long-term residential rehabilitation centres for people who are addicted to hard drugs, for example, the mover of the motion has my total support. I have supported such provision for more than 20 years, but in all that time no Government has provided resources that are adequate to the task of turning heroin users away from their addiction. I heard what Hugh Henry had to say about statistics, but the hard core of hard users remains.

That is not to say that Governments have not put money into what has always been referred to as the war against drugs. They have, but it has never been enough to combat the power of the suppliers who moved into the social gaps that developed as a result of deconstruction of the nuclear family and the long-term destabilising effects of underemployment and unemployment. Although I have specific criticisms of aspects of anti-drug policies that have been pursued by Governments—Labour, Tory and, in this Parliament, the coalition—I believe that all of them have pursued those policies with the best of intentions. However, all have failed to achieve their strategic objective, if we define that objective as being to rid society of the destructive power of drug abuse.

Governments, local councils and health boards have been fighting and losing the war against drugs since I chaired the Scottish Drugs Forum in the late 1980s. That is not intended as a criticism of their competence, but much the same mixture of policies has been pursued in other countries, with much the same outcome—an apparently inexorable rise in drug abuse. At this point, it is worth noting the difference in the statistics for drug abuse between the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. I am sure that Stewart Stevenson will agree that there is bound to be a big difference between the statistical use of cannabis in Amsterdam and its use throughout the whole of the Netherlands, because people go to Amsterdam specifically to smoke cannabis. However, the stats for cannabis use in the rest of the country are lower than ours.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I merely made the point that legalising cannabis in Amsterdam has had no beneficial effect in respect of the use of hard drugs.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I hope that Mr Stevenson accepts that I am simply trying to correct what I believe is a wrong picture of the situation.

We should no longer continue to view and assess the effects of alcohol abuse separately from the effects of abuse of other mood or mind-altering substances. Ten to 15 years ago, dance drugs were all the rage for the bright young things out on the town or up for a rave. However, there has been a change in social attitudes and culture; although those drugs are still available, alcohol is now the substance of first choice and getting legless is now an accepted part of a good night out.

Although alcohol abuse statistics show that the situation is worse in the UK than it is elsewhere, this new fashion in substance abuse is becoming common across Europe. Young people are simply ignoring the laws that govern alcohol, cannabis and cocaine and are mixing and matching those substances to the detriment of their health and of national health service budgets. The relevant laws and, indeed, our general approach to substance abuse are not working, which is why front-line police officers in Strathclyde have said loud and clear that a fundamental reassessment of attitude and policy is required. Those officers, who spoke as members of the Scottish Police Federation, have not—as some sections of the media have reported—advocated immediate and/or wholesale legalisation of drugs. Moreover, neither I nor my amendment seeks such a move. The policies that have been pursued for more than two decades are failing, so I—like those officers—want a wholesale investigation of the reasons for increased abuse of substances including alcohol, and an open-minded approach to dealing with the situation in the interests of abusers and for the general good.

Prohibition of potentially injurious substances does not have a very good track record. Before anyone refers to the very high rate of public compliance with the smoking ban, I point out that it is much too soon to draw conclusions not on how or where people smoke but on how many fewer people are doing so. As the police officers in Strathclyde have suggested, it is time to think the unthinkable and to probe the feasibility of, for example, supplying heroin legally and under medical supervision to registered addicts. After all, that is what happened not so long ago. The benefits to users' health are obvious. The reduction in the level of criminality that is associated with the illegal supply of drugs is a less predictable element, but we can be pretty sure that a reduction would happen.

There is evidence that the likelihood is higher than was previously thought that heavy cannabis users can suffer permanent damage, but I wonder whether the figures are any worse than the figures for the harm that is done to the health of binge-drinkers and other alcohol abusers, and whether the statistics suggest that the two substances should be approached from the same legal and practical starting point.

As for methadone, should it be viewed as a short or long-term palliative, as a substitute for heroin or as a cheap way of introducing some order into chaotic lives? Can we ever consider viewing crack cocaine and the newer derivative life-destroyers in the same light as legally controlled and supplied substances? I believe that we should not, but if police officers did not have so much work to do on heroin and cocaine, they might have more time and resources to combat the even more dangerous drugs that can be made in a back bedroom.

Before anyone is moved to reply that a reclassification of and a fresh approach to drugs will send out confusing signals and encourage more drug abuse, I freely concede that the Home Office made a pig's ear of its new approach to cannabis. Its model is not the one that we should follow.

Hugh Henry said that the Executive's policy objective was to give people drug-free lives. If that objective does not include alcohol, we will have to do a lot of explaining to the people who now use that substance in much the same way as their parents might have used cannabis. One reason for a fresh examination into attitudes and patterns is that the statistics that have been cited even in this short debate are very confusing, so I urge the Executive to carry out an investigation to clear up the matter. I have posed questions, but I do not know all the answers. Perhaps we should think about finding them.

I move amendment S2M-4252.2, to leave out from "notes" to end and insert:

"regrets the continuing economic and social cost of alcohol and drug abuse across Scotland and calls on the Scottish Executive to establish a commission of investigation into such misuse."

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat 9:49, 20 April 2006

We will need a much longer debate if we want to find the answers that Margo MacDonald seeks. I hope that, in due course, we will have a full Executive debate on its drug strategy not only for the criminal justice system but for the health service, and that both the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Health and Community Care will take part in it.

There is widespread recognition that an individual's drug problem is a personal crisis. However, the problem also draws in family members and the local community and many—though not all—cases involve a criminal justice element. We have already heard statistics about the number of offences that are committed by people who have such problems. I agree with the point in Mr Stevenson's amendment that such people often receive help through a criminal justice intervention, but the majority of people on drug stabilisation and reduction programmes are either self-referred or have been referred by health professionals. In its consideration of the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill, the Justice 2 Committee heard that, in Aberdeen, authorities are struggling to accommodate the more than 300 individuals who have not been referred to programmes because of criminal justice considerations.

That situation is replicated throughout Scotland, and I have to say that the same thing is happening with drug treatment and testing orders. When, in February, I met 20 young offenders and drug misusers on a Fairbridge scheme—I know that other members have met Fairbridge representatives—one young man told me that he had been delighted to receive a DTTO from the court and to be released into the community. However, more than three weeks passed before he received his first assessment, and he did not know how long it would be before he was placed on what was likely to be a methadone programme. He still had his habit and, as he saw it, he had no option but to thieve to satisfy it. Rosemary Byrne highlighted Tom Wood's comments on housebreaking; I point out that that is one of the trigger offences in the Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill.

In recent months, I have rejected many of the Conservatives' comments on the subject, although I agree that there should be an audit of capacity, and I hope that the academic research that is being carried out into drugs courts and DTTOs will consider capacity issues. After all, capacity is at the heart of the debate not only for the criminal justice system but for our health service.

The Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill will introduce mandatory drug testing and assessment for certain trigger offences. During this week's stage 2 consideration of the bill, Mr Fox from the SSP did not press an amendment to make referral to a programme mandatory. However sympathetic I might be to such an amendment and, indeed, to the Scottish Socialists' motion, I fear that their proposals are currently unworkable and will make the situation worse in one key regard.

Although I support continuation of the methadone stabilisation and reduction programme, I certainly do not consider it to be a panacea. Over the past couple of months, Miss Goldie has repeatedly stated that methadone is part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. The 2005 drug misuse statistics estimate that in 2004 just over 19,000 people were receiving methadone, which is an increase of nearly 3,000 since 2001, and that in 2004-05 409,000 scripts for methadone mix were issued. However, in one of the most extensive-ever reviews in Scotland on the effectiveness of treatment for opiate-dependent drug users, the University of Aberdeen found that maintenance programmes that use methadone are effective for all population groups.

That said, I must make it clear that I have also called for the establishment of more residential abstinence programmes, such as those that are offered in my constituency—constituents of many members receive treatment in the Borders—and for pharmacists to have a greater role in working with drug misusers. Young people, in particular, have told me that the health and social work professional whom they trust most is not their doctor, but their pharmacist.

I am glad that Margo MacDonald mentioned alcohol. The shocking figures for drugs are mirrored by shocking figures for alcohol misuse—I will return to that in my summing up. However, as far as both drugs and alcohol are concerned, we must not be distracted by the well-intentioned but flawed proposals in the motion, which seek to give a statutory basis to drug treatment and rehabilitation.

Photo of Susan Deacon Susan Deacon Labour 9:54, 20 April 2006

I begin by welcoming the tone and tenor of the minister's comments. In particular, I welcome his desire to identify common ground and to bring people together to address some of the most complex and challenging issues that we face. It is encouraging that that tone and tenor have largely been shared around the chamber today. We do not talk much any more about the new politics—it is a bit of an old idea, I guess—but surely to goodness drug misuse must be a policy area in which we share the aspiration for a new politics, with people coming together to address complex and challenging issues. That must be the real test of whether we can put that aspiration into practice, and there are welcome signs in today's short debate that we are doing that.

I heard what Stewart Stevenson had to say about not forming yet another commission, but I have had the privilege of sitting for more than a year on a commission that is dealing with drugs—a UK-wide exercise that was organised by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, in London. It has been illuminating and, to some extent, liberating to have the opportunity to consider the matter in some depth, free from the cut and thrust of the normal political and media debate that takes place on the issue. If there is one overriding theme that emerges time and again, it is the need for us to approach the issue with open minds and to be open to fresh thinking.

The Executive deserves congratulations on the significant programme of action and investment that it has undertaken across a wide range of areas, including treatment and rehabilitation, education and awareness, prevention and many other aspects of work on drug misuse. However, it is important that none of us becomes complacent, as the minister has said today.

Can we identify some of the areas in which we can just agree to agree? We all agree that we need to make progress in developing a wider range of services and in speeding up access to more and better treatment and rehab facilities across the country. The SSP's suggestion that there should be a statutory right to such facilities is unworkable and impractical and it is certainly not the way forward, but we all want to make progress in that area.

The debate about classification, legalisation or regulation—call it what you will—is taking place around the globe at the moment, and everybody is grappling with where to draw the lines. It is not the primary job of this Parliament to lead that debate; that is not where we have the powers and responsibilities that would make the greatest impact, but we should not be frightened, either as individuals or collectively, to engage in the debate on that challenging question.

On methadone, it is the Tories who are in danger of becoming overreliant on it—they are becoming overreliant on methadone as a topic for debate when we talk about drug policy. Everyone from the First Minister down has agreed that we need to review and think carefully about where we are going as far as methadone is concerned, so let us get on with that job, and let us do it sensibly.

I want to highlight some other areas in the short time that is available to me. The topics are not the focus, as such, of today's debate but it is important to mention them. We must not forget the importance of education and awareness, particularly for the younger generation. I know that members all have big mailbags, but I encourage all my colleagues to look at a letter that has arrived in the past few days from the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency, which tells us about the choices for life programme. Last year, 27,000 primary 7 children attended events in that programme around Scotland. This year, the number will almost double; more than 50,000 youngsters in seven venues across the country will come together for what I consider—having gone to one of the events last year—to be a remarkable education programme. Scotland is leading the way in education and awareness, which gives the lie to the notion that the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency is just about enforcement. We should applaud its efforts in education and awareness.

I shall say something else about children. We have recently debated a lot—rightly so—on child protection. Many of us have seen at close quarters tragic cases that have occurred in various parts of the country. As other members have done, I plead that as we examine sensitive and complex child protection issues, particularly in relation to the children of drug-misusing parents, we do not make knee-jerk responses. We should, instead, be sensitive to the complexities of every individual family situation. I commend to the minister the work that was done recently by a think tank that was led by the Aberlour Child Care Trust. That is the kind of considered work that should be examined carefully before decisions are reached.

When we are thinking about the impact of drugs on the children of drug-misusing parents, let us also take a preventive approach. Colleagues will know of my interest in sexual and reproductive health, which we do not talk about enough. It is vital that all services that deal with women who use drugs consider fertility and contraception. At present, services and support in that area are patchy, to say the least.

I have been able to touch only on a few issues today—we are all conscious that we are skimming the surface of a complex subject. However, there are welcome signs in today's debate that we in Parliament are willing to take a grown-up approach to the subject. If we can continue to take such an approach, to be open to fresh thinking and to be imaginative and creative in our solutions, we can make progress in tackling one of the biggest challenges that our society faces.

Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party 10:00, 20 April 2006

Thank you, Presiding Officer, for allowing me time in this debate to get my first speech over at an early stage.

As Stewart Stevenson did, I want in this debate to draw on my 14 years' experience as a prison visitor at Craiginches, where I have witnessed the human misery that is suffered by individuals as a result of drug misuse and involvement with drugs. Over the years, I have seen the prison population at Craiginches change from being predominantly older men on theft and petty criminal charges to the majority of prisoners—some 70 to 80 per cent—being there as a result of drug misuse.

As many members have said, the scourge of drug abuse must not be seen as a party-political matter and speeches today have shown that our common goal is to rid Scotland of its drug culture. However, it is my firm belief that sentencing drug addicts to short sentences that are not long enough seriously to tackle their addictions is not the answer, because far too often we see those addicts back in prison again, sometimes within days. That must really frustrate the police.

Craiginches has the highest rate of prisoners who have tested positive for drugs, but it has the second-lowest rate of attendance for drug programmes. The provision of methadone substitute is not the answer because the addictive behaviour continues. On a prison visit just last Friday, I listened to one prisoner who had been forcibly removed from Craiginches to Barlinnie on a Wednesday, despite the fact that he told prison staff that his case was due in court in two days' time and that he was likely to be released on bail. He was released from Barlinnie on the Friday, at 7.30 pm, with a bus ticket to Aberdeen that was valid only for Friday, but by that time all the buses had left. He had to sleep rough in Glasgow and return to Aberdeen at his own expense the next day. Worse than that, he was released without his methadone prescription for the weekend, so as soon as he got back to Aberdeen he was immediately back on heroin and back in prison within a few days.

The benefits to the drug user and to society of becoming drug free greatly outweigh the benefits of controlled drug abuse. Residential rehabilitation has been shown to be the most effective way of facilitating recovery, but it is available only to a tiny proportion of addicts in Scotland. I agree with colleagues who have said that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The methadone programme alone costs £12 million for an estimated 20,000 addicts. How much better it would be if that money were redirected to provide residential rehab services. Although there is some provision by the private sector, it is patchy and unregulated. I disagree with Miss Goldie's suggestion—if I heard her correctly—that there should be a central unit for rehabilitation, because it is important that addicts be treated in their own environments, so that they can have family support.

Grampian has the highest number of babies born with drug addictions. The national figure is 6.1 per 1,000 live births, but in the Grampian area it is 11.4 per 1,000 live births. Now that the women's unit in Craiginches has closed, we do not see those women and they have to go to Cornton Vale, where I am sure there are some human misery stories still to be told.

We need residential units throughout the country. In the north-east we desperately need a publicly funded rehabilitation centre. I am sure that the long-term benefits to drug users and to society as a whole would mean that money had been well spent because it would make us safer and save taxpayers money. That really would be joined-up Government.

Photo of Eleanor Scott Eleanor Scott Green 10:05, 20 April 2006

I whole-heartedly support Rosemary Byrne's motion. I also support comments that have been made by many members, but Rosemary's motion echoes the approach that I and my party take to drugs in that we see it primarily as a health, rather than a justice, issue.

It is as well to put the drug problem in context because, as Margo MacDonald said, there is sometimes hysteria around the issue. In 2004, 356 deaths were directly due to controlled drugs. In the same year, there were 2,052 alcohol-related deaths in Scotland, an estimated 13,000 deaths due to smoking, 865 deaths due to passive smoking and 2,000 deaths from vehicle emissions. Although I want in no way to minimise the adverse effects of some drug use, we should put the scale of the problem in context.

I mentioned the 356 deaths from controlled drugs, but once a drug becomes criminalised it becomes anything but controlled: users are placed outside the control and protection of the law, which I do not believe best serves the needs of users, their families or their communities. A justice-based approach to tackling drug use will always leave vulnerable users outside the law and take them away from potential help. In contrast, a health-based approach can put the needs of drug users and their families at the heart of the matter as care and rehabilitation, rather than punishment, become the primary objectives. I therefore particularly welcome Rosemary Byrne's motion's mention of prompt treatment and residential care. There is always the potential for abuse of any care provision that involves accommodation, but we should remember that every £1 that is spent on care saves £3 in other social costs of drug abuse. I had the figures when I wrote my speech, but Rosemary's figures, which I am happy to accept, suggest that there are much larger savings.

Cannabis is infinitely less of a public health problem in present-day Scotland than are alcohol or tobacco; members will note that it did not figure in the list of deaths that I read out. I do not encourage its use—far from it—but it should not be a major target for policing when serious drug use, including under-age drinking, merits much more attention from all agencies.

It is interesting to contrast the approach that is taken to drug education, which Susan Deacon mentioned, with the approach that is taken to alcohol education. Of course, alcohol is the drug of choice of most middle-aged people, which is the age group that is most likely to devise education strategies. The approach on alcohol is one of education, moderation and the avoidance of drinking in particularly risky situations such as when driving. We should contrast that with the approach that some people advocate for other drugs, which involves avoiding giving meaningful information and urging people to "just say no". One can imagine how much success a "just say no" approach to alcohol abuse would have. I suspect that in modern Scotland it would have very little success. I believe that the same reasoned approach as is used for alcohol should be used for drugs, because ignorance never affords protection. People must be properly informed, without scaremongering taking place, and they must be supported in making healthy choices. People also have to live in a society in which they develop the hope and self-esteem that makes it likely that they will make the healthy choice. Drug dealers feed off ignorance as much as they feed off poverty and inequality.

I fully support the SSP motion and its emphasis on treating drug misuse as a health issue. I urge the Executive to continue to seek innovative and constructive approaches to drug problems, as was suggested in last December's publication, "Taking Action to Reduce Scotland's Drug-related Deaths" including monitoring of the heroin-prescribing pilots that are taking place in England.

Photo of Dr Jean Turner Dr Jean Turner Independent 10:08, 20 April 2006

I heartily agree with everything that Eleanor Scott said, but that is true of almost every speech that I have heard today. I have enjoyed the consensus.

Maureen Watt, our new MSP, reminded me of a very important issue: prison. The sad thing is that people go into prison on one drug and come out on other drugs. I speak from 25 years of experience in general practice, during which I dealt with the problem.

If we were to ask any general practitioner what are the biggest drug problems today, they would say alcohol and smoking. We are trying to do something about smoking, but alcohol is by far the biggest problem.

There is a mixed picture in Glasgow in relation to drug addicts; if the situation were not so complicated, we would probably have found a solution to it by now. After 25 years in general practice, I have no idea why people do it. The problem crosses all socioeconomic groups: the wealthy professionals and the most deprived.

I recall the saddest situation that I came across in a general practice surgery. It involved a young man, whom I first met when his mother pushed him in in his buggy, who was by this point married with his own child. In order to deal with the pressure of his 12-hour shifts, he bought, for £5, a small container of methadone, which had been prescribed for someone else to get them off their drug habit. He started to take methadone once a week, then twice a week. As members might suspect, he got well and truly hooked on it because it is a very addictive drug. General practitioners do not wish to be part of the scene of giving drugs for ever and ever—we do not want to be in competition with the drug pushers. We know that it is often easier to get off drugs than it is to stay off them.

I agree with the comments made by Rosemary Byrne and almost all the members who have spoken. A great deal of debate is required about cannabis. Given that it is a drug, I am afraid of it being called safe. We must discuss seriously what we think about that. I noticed in one patient that cannabis can either stimulate psychosis or produce it of itself, and that can end up in death. That fact must make us think hard about what we decide about cannabis.

I wonder whether we can really know the figures. As I say, in Glasgow, there is a mixed picture. People take alcohol and one or two other drugs. If we were to estimate how many people drink every day and drink more at the weekends, we might discover that there are more alcoholics than we think. When I see the word "drug", I always think drugs and alcohol. Can we afford the costs of family breakdown? Can business afford the time and money that absenteeism costs? There are cheap nights at the pub for students, so when they come in the next day they are sleepy and cannot do their work. National health service staff, the police and the fire service have to cope with alcohol intoxicated patients—or, more accurately, alcohol poisoned patients. Such patients would argue about the number of grains of sugar in their tea. They are argumentative, aggressive and violent. I do not know that we should have to put up with such behaviour.

In addition to the terrible costs to the family and the person who wishes to get off drugs, there is another cost. As a GP, I would like to think that when people come to us we could get them treated quickly. Can we afford the liver transplants of the future? Where will we get the livers for transplant? If the current situation continues, we will not have enough of them to cope. More research is required. I support Rosemary Byrne's motion.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat 10:13, 20 April 2006

I commend Maureen Watt for a powerful maiden speech, which I agree with in its entirety.

We have heard of the McKeganey findings about those who take drugs wanting a drug-free lifestyle. That should be our ambition. However, in response to Margo MacDonald's point, I say that residential programmes for abstinence, such as those offered at Castle Craig in my constituency, are much more expensive than community options. A statutory duty to offer treatment in seven days would mean that health boards would refer more people to community options and methadone programmes than to residential programmes. That is counterintuitive to the McKeganey findings.

I have always favoured the legalisation of cannabis, not just its decriminalisation. I have often wondered what the benefit is of just decriminalising it. The Parliament has no power to legalise cannabis—

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

Will the member take an intervention on that point?

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

I am sorry, but I cannot take an intervention because of time constraints.

The Parliament has no power to legalise cannabis and neither my party nor my colleagues support its legalisation. I have read the Dutch report that was mentioned. I accept that it shows that legalising cannabis does not reduce hard drugs use, but that is because the link between cannabis and hard drugs is overstated. That is one of the reasons why I support the legalisation of cannabis.

In 2004, there were 22,310 drug seizures in Scotland. Of those, nearly 18,000 were for cannabis. Resources are not being directed properly at tackling the drugs that do the greatest harm. It has been many years since devolution, but too many drug and alcohol programmes for young people still have insecure funding.

I do not support a reduction in the classification for chemical drugs such as ecstasy, from which 17 people died in Scotland in 2004, or for the drug from which Scotland will soon, I fear, be under attack from the United States of America—methamphetamine, which is man-made and deeply insidious.

The general registrar tells us that in a year when there were 313 deaths from mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol, there were 356 deaths due to drugs. Both of those figures have remained stubbornly similar to the figure for people who die from falls, and have consistently been about half the figure for people who die from chronic liver disease.

In my constituency in the Borders, 21 new entrants to drug and alcohol programmes in 2004 were under 15. In greater Glasgow, the figure was 13. We must ensure that the programmes work for those young people.

I recently went on a school visit with Kenny Houston, the police constable who is the drug awareness officer in the Borders. He is motivated and passionate. We went to Langlee primary school and he educated young people about the disadvantages and dangers of drugs as well as the law on drugs and alcohol. I then visited the Reiver project in Galashiels. I am thankful that it is receiving more funding for next year, because there was concern that funding would not be secure over the next two or three years. Young people can be referred to the project or they can refer themselves. In the Borders, we have an innovation that could be followed throughout Scotland: if underage people are caught with alcohol or drugs, they are automatically referred to the Reiver project.

That idea is similar to one in today's Scottish Socialist Party motion, but we cannot compel people to use services, and unless there is sufficient capacity it is unfair to say to people that they have a statutory right to services. It may be that services cannot be provided; but—worse—services that are provided for reasons of expediency or cost, or simply to prevent the law from being brought in, may not be in the best interests of the people referred. Therefore, although we sympathise with the SSP motion, we cannot support it.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative 10:17, 20 April 2006

When I say that the subject matter of this morning's debate is deeply depressing, I in no way seek to criticise any of the speeches. A number of them have been very good and all of them have contained ideas of merit.

In her sincere and measured contribution, Rosemary Byrne raised a number of issues. First, she highlighted the problems of children living with drug-abusing parents, an issue that must surely concern us all. She made the sound point that methadone must be used sparingly and that other less addictive substitutes might well be considered with a view to reducing the number of people who are, to be frank, parked on methadone.

Over the years, I have known Hugh Henry to be a master of understatement. Today he said that we cannot be complacent, which was indeed an understatement. How can we possibly be complacent when we see the human wreckage on the streets of our cities and, indeed, our villages, and when we consider the level of criminality that is caused entirely by addiction? We must have a joined-up approach to both criminal justice and health issues.

We agree that drug abuse is not inevitable, but we must have sympathy with people who have become addicted. Even if it has been their own fault, they should not be cast into the outer darkness.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

I am sorry, Margo, but I do not have time.

We must do something for those people. We have to consider what we are doing at the moment and ask what is working and what is not.

Jeremy Purvis said that a longer debate was required and he was right. He spoke about self-referrals. In his area, such things may happen, but in Glasgow the quickest way for a person to get treatment for drug problems is to commit more and more crimes. If they do that, they will be fast-tracked through the judicial system and will go to the drugs court and be offered immediate assistance. Unfortunately, as recent statistics prove, 53 per cent of people who go through the drugs court in Glasgow do not fulfil their obligations, which is a matter of concern. We support the concept of drugs courts but we must consider ways in which less hardened offenders who need treatment just as desperately can go before those courts and obtain treatment that will be much more likely to be effective.

I congratulate Maureen Watt on a fine opening speech; we look forward to hearing more from her in future. She highlighted the way in which drug addiction has changed the profile of people in prison. She made the point—and it is arguable—that short prison sentences do not help. However, what do we do with people who commit more and more crimes—people who may have 12 or 15 cases outstanding, from minor shoplifting to theft by opening lockfast premises—

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

I am afraid that I cannot; I have no time.

The fact is that with such people we cannot do other than to impose a prison sentence—and we must investigate with the greatest of urgency why many different forms of drugs are so freely available in our institutions.

Of course, there has to be cross-matching with people's needs, but we must consider the effects of drug addiction not only on people themselves and their families, but on wider society. The figures may or may not be accurate, but I refer members to a document that was produced five years ago by the predecessor of the Communities Committee—the Social Inclusion, Housing and Voluntary Sector Committee. The report showed the effects of drug addiction in the poorer areas of Scotland. It made terrifying reading then, and it makes terrifying reading now.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 10:21, 20 April 2006

Bill Aitken said that this was a depressing debate, not in its tenor but in its subject. Depressing it may be, but it is vital that we address it. We face a pandemic—if not globally, at least in the western world. It is not avian flu; it is drug abuse—and I accept the point made by others that drug abuse includes alcohol abuse.

This has been a remarkably good debate. Both Stewart Stevenson and Hugh Henry, the minister, said that there was little disagreement with the generalities of Rosemary Byrne's opening speech, although there was some disagreement with the specifics. We accept that this is not simply a criminal justice matter; there are health and social implications too. Stewart Stevenson said that the criminal justice system may be the first interface, but we must also consider health and social justice.

Hugh Henry said that there was no quick fix, and we agree. The opening speakers in the debate set the tone and they were followed by two excellent speeches from Maureen Watt and Susan Deacon. They made it clear that we must reach a consensus. If we allow the issue to become a political football, we will not serve the parties well and we will certainly not serve the people of Scotland well. We have to find solutions, not simply score points. Maureen Watt's points and anecdotes were clearly ones that we must address.

I accept the premise in the SSP's motion that this is not only a criminal justice issue but a social and a health issue. However, the criminal justice system is where people first become involved. We cannot ignore that—although if we consider only the criminal justice element, we will simply be firefighting rather than looking for solutions. We must consider criminal justice, health and social issues, but we must also consider demand as well as supply. We have to ask why people take drugs and not simply ask how we can get them off drugs or how we can stop them taking drugs in the first place.

This is not simply about enforcement or powers and laws. Anybody who has read Chomsky will know that the United States is a global superpower the likes of which the world has never known. It has resources for the military, for the police, for anti-terrorist force SWAT teams—you name it, they have it. Despite that, the United States cannot deal with the control and supply of drugs. If we read Chomsky, we realise that, of the ingredients of cocaine, around 97 per cent are manufactured in the United States, exported to Colombia, integrated with the principal subject and then imported back into the United States. The United States cannot close its borders—not to Hispanic migrants and not to imported drugs.

As I say, we must consider not only the supply of drugs but the demand. That does not mean that we should take our eyes off the ball and not take any action. Stewart Stevenson was correct to talk about the need to target dealers, but we must examine why people take drugs. I accept that we are living in a society in which there are social causes of drug taking, such as deprivation. It is clear that there is a correlation between the onset of mass unemployment in an area and the arrival of heroin. As well as being taken by yuppies as part of their lifestyle, drugs are taken by people who have no focus in their lives and who see no reason for living. Why is it that when we have never had more material wealth, people feel that their lives are worthless?

The members who mock Dr Carol Craig—who come from all parties—should acknowledge that we are talking not just about material well-being. We must address people's moral values and give them a sense of self-worth. People do not take drugs purely out of poverty; they inject smack or heroin into their veins because they believe that there is little place for them in society. We must address demand as well as supply, which means not just providing people with material benefits, but giving them a sense of value and self-worth. I am not sure what the solution is or how we can legislate for it, but Dr Carol Craig must be listened to.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour 10:26, 20 April 2006

I commend to Parliament the amendment in my name, which represents a general statement of intent rather than a specific prescription on every aspect of the issue that has been mentioned during the debate. I welcome the large degree of support that has been expressed for the work that we are doing, the recognition that we are confronted by a significant problem and the willingness to work together that members of all parties have shown. Although we may sometimes disagree on particular issues, I hope that we can work together on our general intent.

There have been some excellent speeches. I commend Maureen Watt for making an excellent and highly thoughtful first speech in the Parliament. It was fascinating to hear her draw on her experience as a prison visitor. I agree that giving drug users short sentences is often not the answer, although I accept Bill Aitken's point that prison must sometimes be an option for those who commit crime persistently.

Photo of Hugh Henry Hugh Henry Labour

I am sorry, but I do not have time.

I agree with what Maureen Watt said, which is why we have introduced drug treatment and testing orders. We want to keep people who have a persistent drug problem out of prison. I was shocked by the example that Maureen Watt gave of the release of a prisoner from Barlinnie. I would certainly like to know more about that case because it demonstrates some of the failings that still exist in the system and the inability of different parts of the system to come together.

In her thoughtful speech, Susan Deacon was right to discuss education and awareness raising. She mentioned the choices for life initiative, in which the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency is involved. That programme, which is funded largely by the Executive, demonstrates our commitment to educating young people about the dangers of drugs. As a number of members said, simply telling them not to take drugs is not enough. We must make them aware of the wider context and of the consequences of taking drugs. That is the starting point for much of the material in the know the score campaign, the effectiveness of which in providing drugs education and contributing to the drugs strategy is widely recognised in the United Kingdom and beyond.

We must reduce the use of drugs among children and young people—and I have mentioned the role that education and the provision of public information can play in that—but we must also reduce the harm that is done to children and young people who live in drug-addicted families. We face a huge moral and social dilemma about what to do in such situations. We know that parents want to be with their children and vice versa, but we need to ensure that by allowing that to happen we are not exposing children to dangers that could sometimes be lethal. We must engage in debate on that.

It is proper that we ensure that the number of problematic drug users who get timely and effective treatment increases, which is why we have extended the range of facilities that are available. However, we must keep a sense of perspective in the debate about residential treatment. Although such treatment, when given at the appropriate time, is right for some people, there can be other, equally effective interventions. We must leave that for the experts to determine.

Today's debate on what is a complex subject has been useful. Given the comments that have been made, I want to work with members of all parties and I hope that members of the justice committees will join me in examining what is happening in Glasgow and elsewhere. The more we can educate ourselves about the challenge that is ahead of us, the more we will be able take effective action to ensure that the problem is dealt with properly.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP 10:30, 20 April 2006

The Scottish Socialist Party is much more interested in progress than in consensus or point scoring. In 2000, in the Parliament's previous debating chamber, the SSP argued against the Executive's drugs strategy on the basis that it was primarily criminal justice led, did not take enough cognisance of the need for drug rehabilitation and treatment, did not allocate enough resources to community investment and to providing facilities that would allow young people to engage in positive recreation and did not address the legality of drugs and the continued criminalisation of users. We were lambasted in the Parliament and criticised by the media. We were told that because we called for heroin to be provided on prescription, we were, in effect, drug dealers. In 2000, there were 495 premature deaths from illegal drug use, but in 2004, there were 546 such deaths. In other words, consensus is not working. The Parliament's approach is not dealing with the problems that continue to haunt the communities of Scotland.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

I am sorry, but I do not have time. The member did not have time to take an intervention from me.

We in the SSP believe that it is time to get real about the drug problem in this country. Let us get rid of the idea that simply getting tough and providing the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency with more money will deal with the problem. If we want an anti-crime strategy, let us consider the legalisation of the drugs the use of which is currently illegal.

People talk about the cost of illegal drug use. The Government says that it is responsible for 54 per cent of robberies, 80 per cent of burglaries, 85 per cent of shoplifting and 95 per cent of street prostitution. That is the result of the criminalisation of users, which is not working. Kenny MacAskill mentioned Chomsky's excellent work and the fact that the most heavily armed country in the world—the country that spends more on its security than any other country in the world—cannot stop the supply of drugs. Let me use an example that is closer to home. Some members have not spent time at Her Majesty's pleasure, but some of us have. Drugs have been available in each of the four prisons in which I have spent time. If we cannot stop the supply of drugs in prison, we will not be able to stop the supply of drugs in society as a whole.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

No—I am sorry.

That is why we must address the legal status of drugs. Jeremy Purvis said that he believes in the legalisation of cannabis; so do we. Here in Scotland we have the power to decriminalise cannabis use by instructing our chief constables to no longer take action on such offences. That is what we should be doing. The figures that Jeremy Purvis gave show that we are involved in an absolute farce. There have been no deaths from cannabis use, but 80 per cent of illegal drug seizures involve cannabis rather than heroin.

Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SSP

No one in the SSP is arguing that cannabis is a safe drug. There is no such thing as a safe drug. The SSP does not believe in promoting any drug; we are saying that we should stop criminalising the people who choose to use cannabis.

The crux of the motion that is before us today is Rosemary Byrne's call to get rid of the rhetoric on rehab and to introduce some reality on the subject.

Members should read the account of the experience of nine heroin abusers in The Lennox of 14 April. Every single one of them said that, when they sought help, the only available help was for them to be put on methadone. As far as the SSP is concerned, if someone is well off, they will get rehab; if they are poor, they will get methadone. That is not good enough.

A statutory right for users to receive drug treatment needs to be put into our health system. That would mean that proper rehabilitation and treatment would be made available, including residential treatment where appropriate. We are saying not that residential treatment works for everyone or that one cap fits all but that what is available here and now in Scotland is not good enough. To those who ask how we can afford that and who say that the system cannot cope—including members such as Jeremy Purvis, who says that we do not have enough places—I say that we should provide the resources to ensure that the system can cope. Drug misuse is a fundamental problem. If we were to divert the resources that go into criminal enforcement into drug treatment and rehabilitation, we would have the resources, beds and treatment. We can deal with the problem.

In his amendment, Stewart Stevenson says that he supports

"efforts to recover assets from drug barons".

I say to him that the SSP does not want to take more resources from the drug barons; we want to put them out of business. Back in 2000, we were isolated for saying that, but others now support our position. Lord McCluskey supports it, as does David Hingston, the procurator fiscal for Highlands and Islands. I say to Annabel Goldie that she ought to support her party leader on the matter. In September last year, he was quoted as saying that, as the war on drugs was not working, it was time to legalise drugs. The Tories in Scotland are not only out of touch with the people of Scotland; they are out of touch with their leader.

Strathclyde police has called for the legalisation of drugs. It did so because it wants to break the link between illegal drugs and crime. That is what the Parliament should be doing. If we want to have an anti-crime policy, we should address the illegal drug laws that are part of the problem and not the solution. Scotland should also have proper treatment and rehabilitation for addicts, as of right.