Drugs Strategy

– in the Scottish Parliament at 2:35 pm on 4th June 2008.

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Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None 2:35 pm, 4th June 2008

The next item of business is a debate on motion S3M-2038, in the name of Fergus Ewing, on the drugs strategy.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party 3:19 pm, 4th June 2008

It has been six days since the publication of our new national drugs strategy, "The Road to Recovery: A New Approach to Tackling Scotland's Drug Problem". I felt it right to allow time for members to reflect on it and to seek views from the field before we debated it.

Members will express their views today, but I am pleased that there has been widespread support for the central thrust of our strategy, which is the concept of recovery. That support reflects the many positive discussions that I have had with a range of parties—from key experts to practitioners, politicians, and service users and their families—during the development of the strategy. In particular, I am pleased that the health and wellbeing spokesperson for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, Councillor Ronnie McColl, welcomed the publication of the strategy, which he said gives a renewed focus to local authorities' work. Last week, Tom Wood, who has retired as chairman of the Scottish Association of Alcohol and Drug Action Teams, said that the strategy

"marks a very positive change in direction, towards recovery", and the chief medical officer, Harry Burns, thinks that it provides

"a clear set of integrated actions aimed at tackling the drug problem in Scotland."

To recap, recovery means recovery; it means more than simply reducing risk and harm. Services should help a person to move on towards a drug-free life as an active and contributing member of society. Our approach is person centred. It places service users' needs and aspirations at the centre of their care. Recovery is a process, not an event; it is a journey, not an end point. People's milestones on the road to recovery may be as simple as gaining weight, re-establishing relationships with friends and family or building self-esteem and then entering a training or education programme and developing skills.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

The minister mentioned his widespread discussions with interested parties on recovery and the route back to work. Has he had any discussions with his counterparts south of the border, particularly with bodies such as the Department for Work and Pensions, on the number of people who can progress to work? If they cannot do so, it will be difficult to move people on.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Earlier in the process, I had constructive discussions with my counterpart down south, Vernon Coker, which were conducted around the confines of the British-Irish Council in Dublin. I also corresponded with him recently, and I met Roger Howard of the UK Drug Policy Commission, which does good work—indeed, it has made proposals on recovery that are similar to ours.

"Journey to Recovery", which was published with the drugs strategy, contains stories of the different ways in which a number of individuals have recovered. Let me be clear: the Government is not in the business of second-guessing clinicians or seeking to disparage particular treatments without which individuals and society would be exposed to unwarranted risks.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour

On a point of clarification, "The Road to Recovery" and the minister say that, above all, recovery is about "movement and dynamism". What does that mean? In addition, if the Government's policy is person centred—it is probably right to be—does the minister envisage circumstances in which individuals could remain on a maintenance programme that involves methadone, for example, without a time limit?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

I have had the privilege of travelling around Scotland and visiting a great many service users in every city of Scotland—indeed, I visited service users in Edinburgh this morning. Recovery is hard. It takes a long time to recover and a lot of effort by the person involved and by those who provide help. It can come in many different forms. This morning, for example, I saw skills being developed as part of the transition project in Edinburgh.

Johann Lamont asks whether methadone treatment should or could in some circumstances continue indefinitely. Such matters are matters for clinicians. I have already said that I cannot and will not second-guess what clinicians say. It would be completely wrong for any minister to do so. I am a politician, not a doctor. There is a place for methadone. Some people argue that it is like another drug, and that in some circumstances—perhaps relatively few—people may persist in taking it for some or many years. However, the main point is that it is not for me to second-guess what drugs should be prescribed to whom; rather, my job is to set out a vision and strategy, the guiding and central principle of which is recovery.

We must recognise that substitute prescribing has an important part to play in tackling addiction. That was the conclusion of an expert report that the Scottish Advisory Committee on Drug Misuse published last year, and it is also entirely consistent with the recently reviewed United Kingdom guidelines on clinical management, which are known as the orange guidelines, for obvious reasons. However, simply getting people into treatment can no longer be seen as a successful outcome in itself. That is a key point of the strategy. Treatment services must be integrated with wider employment, training, housing and counselling support services to help people to recover and rebuild their lives.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

Will the minister confirm or deny that he is dropping the target of getting an additional 10 per cent of people with drug problems into treatment, which has been the prime target for drug action teams and drugs services over the past eight or nine years?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Working with COSLA, we are pursuing an approach that, as I will explain, is based on the development of outcomes. That is not easy. Of course we want more people to get treatment, but there are dangers in setting targets that may prove to be arbitrary. For example, if the target is simply to deliver an extra 300 people into treatment, there is an in-built incentive for local authorities to chase the numbers, and quantity does not always mean quality. Targets can have unintended consequences.

Similarly, at the transition project this morning, an official from City of Edinburgh Council said that there is a danger that, if the focus of all the activity is on treatment, as Richard Simpson suggests, other worthy parts of recovery, such as training, will be sidelined and will not receive resources, because they will all be going towards meeting a target. Therefore, although I have some sympathy with the approach that is set out in the Labour amendment, I say with respect that I hope that we can instead continue to work across the parties on the outcome agreements with local authorities, to which COSLA has agreed.

The implementation of the strategy is key. We have developed it in partnership and it is essential that we deliver it in partnership, both within and outwith the chamber. I am personally committed to working with ministerial colleagues, external stakeholders and political parties to ensure that the strategy is implemented successfully. I want to do that in the same spirit—and, I hope, with the same vigour—that we have already shown. We owe it to every person in Scotland who has been affected by drug use to work together to support practitioners who will work on the ground to implement the strategy.

Central to the delivery of the strategy is reform of the way in which drug services are planned, commissioned and delivered. To make recovery a reality, local partners need to ensure that the appropriate range of services is in place locally and regionally. We have, therefore, set up an expert delivery reform group to consider future delivery arrangements. The continuing work of that group will determine how best performance management and accountability arrangements for local delivery of drug services should operate within the context of single outcome agreements and national health service accountability structures. That is broadly similar to what I just said to Dr Simpson. The same group is also seeking to develop an outcome-based framework for assessing and managing performance at a local level to improve outcomes for service users.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

On the outcome agreements I agree with the minister. However, has he received representations from the local authorities concerned that they cannot now recruit the number and, perhaps, quality of people that they require to act as counsellors and support workers?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Margo MacDonald makes a telling point. The problem may often be not insufficient resources but lack of skills, personnel, or skills and personnel at the right place or throughout Scotland. We accept that point.

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Because I have taken interventions, I must fast-forward about eight pages into my speech, to the approach that we are taking in our prisons.

The Scottish Prison Service is piloting a new model of care within Saughton prison, which aims to integrate medical treatment with wraparound therapeutic support to give prisoners the best chance of recovery from drug problems and enable them to rebuild their lives after prison.

We are happy to consider carefully the proposal in the Conservative amendment, which was lodged yesterday. The Government has some technical difficulties in accepting it, because it makes a proposal that we must consider extremely carefully, but I undertake that the Scottish Government will examine it fully, and we have agreed to meet Annabel Goldie to do just that. I hope that that assurance provides some comfort.

The publication of our new drugs strategy provides an opportunity for everyone in the chamber to work together, to put the sterile debates of the past behind us, and to reform drug services so that more people recover, reclaim their lives and make a positive contribution to society. Our new strategy provides a sound framework on which to take that work forward, and I recommend it to the chamber.

I move,

That the Parliament welcomes the publication of the national drugs strategy, The Road to Recovery, as a sound framework for tackling drug misuse in Scotland; acknowledges that it is founded on expert advice and has been developed through a wide-ranging and inclusive process; supports the Scottish Government's vision that recovery should be the guiding principle of all services for problem drug users; recognises the breadth of action set out in the strategy to prevent drug use, to make communities safer, to tackle drug use in prisons and to protect children affected by parental substance misuse; recognises the Scottish Government's intention to support action to tackle drug misuse with £94 million from the Justice portfolio alone over the next three years and welcomes the work that Audit Scotland is carrying out into the scale and effectiveness of drugs expenditure, and resolves to support the implementation of the strategy over the coming years.

Photo of Paul Martin Paul Martin Labour 3:31 pm, 4th June 2008

The background to the debate has been about seeking consensus and working together on an issue that troubles many of us and concerns us all as members of the Scottish Parliament. Our constituency case loads identify those constituents who are affected by drug misuse. It could be a constituent who has lost a son or daughter, or a grandparent who is now caring for children who have lost their parents because of drug misuse. Those are real-life examples that face us every day. We owe it to those people to ensure that we stand up for our communities. It is quite right that that requires robust, frank and honest scrutiny of any proposals that the Government makes. That is why we have proposed an addendum to the Government's motion that raises a number of issues that require further scrutiny.

First, our amendment makes it very clear that we want the word "target" to feature in the strategy document; it is used on only two occasions. If we are to spend public money, we must ensure that we get best value for it. That is what the people of Scotland expect from us. We should ensure that we get best value for every pound that is invested in the strategy.

Members should be reminded that the Parliament debated a drugs strategy in January 2000 and delivered an action plan in May 2000. It would therefore be wrong to suggest that the Executive and the Parliament at that time did not reach a cross-party consensus and work together on the challenge that faces us today.

Photo of Paul Martin Paul Martin Labour

I want to develop my point, but I will give way to Margo MacDonald if there is time available.

We called for resources to tackle the issue but also for more precise information on where the money would be spent. In May 2000, the Deputy Minister for Justice, Angus MacKay, advised us that £250 million per year would be spent on tackling drug misuse and that half of that would be spent on enforcement; that meant that the Deputy Minister for Justice could have been held to account. If the Scottish Government genuinely wants to engage with us on the issue, the minister must provide more detail on how he will progress what was a pre-election commitment to provide an additional 20 per cent to the drugs budget. Another commitment was to restore ring-fenced funding for drugs education. We are entitled to have a robust and honest debate, and the minister should answer our questions if he wants to make a difference for the people of Scotland.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I believe that progress should be monitored, along with how the public pound is spent. If we are to have a more sophisticated evaluation of the services provided, as the minister described, how does the member propose to identify a new type of target?

Photo of Paul Martin Paul Martin Labour

The word "outcome" is very serious, but we should be clear that we want to set targets and we should not fear setting targets. We need to set a clear agenda and all those who have a responsibility to tackle the issue should show leadership and ensure that clear targets are set.

The previous Executive was also responsible for establishing the Scottish Drug Enforcement Agency, which was set up with a clear emphasis on disrupting the supply of drugs in our community. That was our manifesto commitment in 1999. We wanted not only to tackle the major drug dealers but to deal with the local network of small dealers who feather the nests of the crime bosses. The Labour Party demands more information—it is not in the strategy—on how the Scottish Government will deal with local drug dealers. Local drug dealers are the scourge of every community throughout Scotland; they prey on our communities. The Government should learn from the success of the drug dealers don't care campaign, which was backed up by real outcomes: more than 600 drug dealers were arrested as a result of calls to a hotline and more than £1.5 million-worth of drugs and £61,000 in cash were recovered.

I do not see the minister on his feet to intervene. It was clear from the 430 per cent increase in calls to Crimestoppers that local people were empowered. I see nothing in the strategy that takes us any further forward in disrupting the supply of drugs and in addressing how we should encourage local communities to stand up to drug dealers. Drug dealers do not care about our local communities and the Government strategy should say that clearly.

On public information, the strategy refers to the further development of the know the score campaign, which will result in a leaflet being delivered to every household in Scotland. The Labour Party sees no harm in sending a leaflet to every household, but we find it difficult to see how that will excite and enthuse the communities that are affected by drugs. Not through choice, many parents are already aware of the drugs issue. It is what we do about the dealers that matters to those parents.

Real innovation would be about how we promote alternative, healthy lifestyles throughout our communities in Scotland. Has the minister thought about how we can use the Glasgow Commonwealth games as a catalyst for promoting and encouraging healthy lifestyles? Young people all too often see considerable media coverage being given to so-called celebrities such as Amy Winehouse and the supermodel Kate Moss. They do not send a positive message to young people. Why do we not use our sports personalities to promote a positive lifestyle? We believe that that would make a genuine difference.

The Labour Party appreciates that we face many challenges on this issue and on many related issues. We call on the Government to take the serious steps that are required to ensure that it effectively resources efforts and projects to deal with the issue.

Our amendment is clear. We call for additional resources to deal with the issue and for clear targets to be set to ensure that we make a difference. Let us also reflect on previous debates that have taken place on the issue. There was consensus in the debates in January and May 2000, but it is clear that the challenge that faces the Government is to ensure that we act and take the message forward.

I move amendment S3M-2038.2, to insert at end:

"acknowledges the efforts of all those engaged in drug misuse services; recognises that the strategy identifies the need for broader treatment services and wrap-around care for drug users to move beyond stabilisation; believes that the strategy should provide detail on targets on a range of indicators so that progress can be monitored; strongly believes that there should be a clear and identifiable increase in funding in the justice and health budgets, and further strongly believes that there should be a continuing focus on enforcement against all drug dealers and that communities most blighted by drugs will benefit from the proceeds of crime legislation."

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative 3:39 pm, 4th June 2008

It is with pleasure and a sense of hope that I speak in the debate.

In previous debates on drug abuse in Scotland, although I had no doubt about the sincerity of the speeches, I always felt a sense of frustration and dismay that the debates seemed to be characterised by an attitude of managing the problem rather than trying to bring forward solutions to the problem. Indeed, when I look back at a debate in the Parliament in November 2002, I recall that my party was roundly criticised for suggesting that, although intentions were good, what was happening in practice was clearly not implementing the good intentions.

What was clear then was that there was an absence of any universal national strategy for dealing with drug abuse in Scotland and an over-reliance on harm reduction—something that I think is now not disputed. I remember saying in another debate that harm reduction had become the predominant response to drug abuse. It meant that many methadone patients were parked on methadone—they were in a cul-de-sac. We were not looking with sufficient urgency at a range of options, including rehabilitation, to try to get people off addictive substances; rather, we were concentrating effort on a state-funded continuance of addiction.

One of the early challenges was the lack of information held centrally. At times, it was impossible to get basic facts. Much information was patchy, incomplete or anecdotal. I pay tribute publicly to Professor Neil McKeganey of the University of Glasgow, who with his research both added significantly to the information bank and brought out into the open the fact that more than half of methadone patients wanted to get off drugs altogether. Professor McKeganey's research also exposed the myth that most people on methadone stop using illegally. Every drug addict whom I have encountered has confirmed that, although they were mainly on methadone, initially they continued to use illegally.

We knew that all around us drug misuse was like a contagion, raging through every community in Scotland. Drug-related deaths were increasing, instead of reducing, and our courts and children's hearings were experiencing increasing evidence of drug abuse in the people who appeared before them. Tragically, our children's hearings showed that some parents and carers—and distressingly, some young people—were affected.

Photo of Annabel Goldie Annabel Goldie Conservative

I am sorry, but I cannot give way. I seek the indulgence of the chamber—the debate is very short, and I want to say what I have to say.

The statistics confirmed that, whatever good intentions were present—I do not doubt that they were—the situation was getting worse, not better. Against that backdrop, as I travelled around Scotland, I found it astonishing that many charitable and voluntary rehabilitation facilities had spare capacity. They could help and wanted to help, but they did not seem to be allowed to provide help because they did not fit into the official structure. I am immensely encouraged by the fact that in the new strategy there is a visible change in political thinking, which has taken us from a cul-de-sac on to a road to recovery. That road will be challenging and in places very rocky, but at least we are on it. I commend the Minister for Community Safety for embarking on that journey and hope that everyone in the Parliament will support it.

People should not be precipitate in demanding detail on the new strategy that cannot be provided at this stage. What matters is that we should all sign up to the new direction towards recovery and allow the Audit Scotland inquiry that my party insisted was an essential component of any new strategy to take place. Vast amounts of money are currently spent through multiple channels with the intention of dealing with drug abuse, but we do not know how much is spent, where and to what effect. It is imperative that those questions are answered, with the publication of the Audit Scotland report early next year, before we rush to judgment on how the strategy will be implemented in detail. I listened carefully to what Paul Martin said but, for the reasons that I have just articulated, I consider the Labour amendment to be premature.

I am pleased that the strategy has been informed by input from diverse groups, organisations and individuals who have direct experience of dealing with drug abuse in Scotland and whose contribution has been allowed to influence the way forward. For too long, many of those people were not listened to. I thank the Scottish Government for having the political courage not just to invite their contributions but to be prepared to listen to what they had to say.

Nowhere is the malign extent of drug abuse more obvious than in our prisons. My colleague Bill Aitken will speak about that issue, including the Pennsylvanian model, in greater detail, so I will say just that it is folly for us to think that we cannot learn from others. It is now universally accepted that there is an appalling problem of drug abuse in Scottish prisons, so I urge the Parliament to look elsewhere—in particular, to the experience of Pennsylvania—to see what others have done. I do not ask the Scottish Government to follow that model to the letter—some aspects may not be competent to the Parliament or competent in our law—but I ask it at least to look at the model, given the dramatic success that has been achieved in Pennsylvanian prisons, to see how much of that success we can translate to Scottish prisons.

I am both encouraged and reassured by the minister's response to the amendment in my name. In light of his comments and the undertaking that he has given, I shall not move the amendment. It is better that we should all go forward with a general sense of progress than that we should not go forward at all.

Photo of Margaret Smith Margaret Smith Liberal Democrat 3:44 pm, 4th June 2008

I welcome the opportunity to speak in this important debate. I thank the minister for the inclusive way in which he has taken the matter forward over recent months and I was pleased that the Government recognised the importance of seeking a wide range of views and taking them on board in the drugs strategy that it published.

There is genuine recognition around the chamber of the tragic scale of the drugs problem. I hope that no one will be tempted to suggest that there are any easy answers to the problems of drug misuse. The Liberal Democrats have consistently taken the view that it is an holistic problem that can be addressed only with properly resourced holistic solutions.

In summing up, Ross Finnie, our health spokesperson, will dwell more on the health impacts. As justice spokesperson, I see drugs and alcohol as one of the biggest criminal justice issues facing our country. If we deal with the drugs and alcohol issue effectively, we will see a reduction in crime and improvements in the quality of life in Scotland's communities, including Scotland's jails. Having discussed with the chief inspector of prisons the lengths to which inmates and prison visitors go to take drugs into prison and the impact that that trade has on life inside, I am clear that it is a key area for action. I welcome Annabel Goldie's comments, which describe the reasonable approach that she takes to the matter. We would not have felt able to support the Tory amendment because it is prescriptive and needed more work, but we support the sentiments behind it.

Drug-related deaths are at a record high and the impact of drugs on crime is significant, with 70 per cent of court cases involving drugs in some shape or form. Our amendment makes it clear that the resources need to be in place to fight drug misuse. Those resources are needed across the board. The Audit Scotland report will be useful in identifying not only where money is being spent but where it is being spent effectively and, therefore, where there should be increased funding in future. That should be the basis on which we build.

Liberal Democrats believe that the individual should be at the heart of tackling misuse. The drugs strategy rightly advocates a person-centred approach and focuses on recovery, treatment and on-going support for problem drug users. Some individuals will benefit from being on methadone, some will benefit from an abstinence approach, and some will benefit from crisis or short-stay rehabilitation. Whichever approach is right for the individual, it is right that recovery is the ultimate goal.

Early intervention is vital to reduce the demand for drugs and to educate young people about the dangers of drugs and their impacts. We must ensure that teachers are supported so that they can successfully deliver drugs education. It is also crucial to involve families in that education process, so we welcome the fact that every family will be sent an information leaflet. We need to identify those children at risk from drug misuse in their homes and to target them particularly because they are potentially at greater risk of misusing drugs themselves.

Early intervention also means giving young people the opportunities in life that will lead them away from drug misuse. It would be wrong to say that drugs affect only a particular social group of people, but investing in community regeneration, sporting facilities, education and skills and providing opportunities for training and employment as a route out of poverty will help to reduce drug misuse.

I was pleased to note the Scottish Government's acceptance of the benefits of a roll-out of drug treatment and testing orders to district courts. DTTOs have been shown to have a significant impact on reoffending rates and users' spending on drugs. A case can be made for a national roll-out of drugs courts, so we welcome the Government's commitment to analyse the pilots as a first step. However, it is also vital to ensure that drugs support services are equally available to problem drug users who have not committed any crimes. To act otherwise would be perverse.

I welcome the report's recommendation that the Government should not seek to disparage particular treatments or seek to second-guess clinicians. I welcome the minister's recognition of the role that methadone has to play in the treatment of heroin addicts. The real achievement of getting heroin users to commit to a programme of methadone and a more structured lifestyle should not be diminished by political agendas. Although recovery must be the ultimate goal, harm reduction must not be seen as dirty words or as some sort of failure along the way. I have dealt with constituents who are managing to care for their families, hold down jobs and run their businesses thanks to that very programme.

I wonder whether the minister can answer the question that I asked last week about what changes there will be as a result of the strategy for those on the methadone programme. Will time limits be set for that form of treatment, or will those sorts of decisions remain with general practitioners? It is vital to support problem drug users to rebuild their lives following treatment by providing access to affordable housing, training and employment, and regular health services, whether after rehabilitation or a period in prison.

Reducing demand is a key element of tackling Scotland's drugs problems, as I outlined, but we should always be working to cut supply. Progress has been made in the confiscation of assets, and I hope that the Government will ensure that the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and the Crown Office have proper resourcing for the forensic accountants and others who are needed to pursue the drug dealers.

We have sympathy with the view that there is a need for strategic targets and indicators so that progress can be monitored, but we must ensure that targets do not have a perverse impact. I believe that, on balance, having something against which we can measure the Government's progress on this important issue and in promoting recovery would be useful for both the public and the Parliament. Will the minister, in winding up the debate, give us further information on how the Government envisages that being dealt with in the single outcome agreements? What input will health boards have on those agreements?

It is also important that we know exactly how much money is being spent. Is the £94 million to which the motion refers an increase of more than 14 per cent, which is what the minister said, rather than the 20 per cent that was promised in the Scottish National Party manifesto? The minister may point to the 3.8 per cent for health boards. Will he confirm that that represents new money? We need clarity.

The Liberal Democrats have worked constructively with the SNP Government on the issue to date and are happy to do so in the future and to support the Government's motion this afternoon.

I move amendment S3M-2038.3, after

"action set out in the strategy" to insert:

"and calls on the Scottish Government to provide the leadership and resources necessary".

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party 3:51 pm, 4th June 2008

The issue of drugs is one of the most challenging problems facing Scotland.

We all know the terrible blight that drug addiction has on our communities, destroying individual lives, families and neighbourhoods. The new strategy that the Scottish Government has set out is bold and ambitious. Such a radical approach is needed if the issue is to be tackled effectively.

Successive Governments at Scottish and United Kingdom level have wrestled with the problem, with laudable and well-meaning intentions. The reality is that the fight against drugs has not yet been won, so we cannot continue down the same path.

The Scottish Government's shift away from harm reduction towards a greater emphasis on recovery is the right strategy for Scotland, given the failure of previous campaigns. For too long, it has been too easy to park heroin addicts on methadone indefinitely. We all know why it was so easy. It stabilised addicts' lives by removing the need to engage in criminal activity to feed their habit, and it protected them from the danger of sharing needles.

However, we know from evidence-based research conducted by Neil McKeganey, who is professor of drug misuse research at the University of Glasgow, that giving methadone to heroin addicts has a 97 per cent failure rate. Three years after receiving methadone, only 3 per cent of addicts remained totally drug-free. In stark contrast, the same study showed that there was a 29 per cent success rate among addicts who went cold turkey in a rehabilitation centre.

Shockingly, that shows that, in terms of recovery, methadone use is only marginally better than doing nothing at all. For a programme that is so expensive and with the number of addicts receiving methadone quadrupling in a decade to 22,000, including 714 in North Ayrshire, that is simply not good enough—not when we know that rehabilitation centres have 10 times the success rate and that 97 people died as a result of methadone in 2006.

That is not the end of the story. Professor McKeganey's research also spelled out the wider social benefits of people coming off drugs. Those free of addiction are seven times less likely to commit crimes than are addicts and far more likely to be in work or education.

Just to be clear, no one is suggesting that methadone does not have a place in drug treatment. Of course it does and will continue to do so, in accordance with the so-called orange guidelines. However, the ultimate goal must be recovery and for addicts to be drug free. Parking people on methadone does not do that. It simply stabilises the illness but does not cure the patient. In a way, it is like putting an alcoholic on half a bottle of whisky a day. It is time to be more ambitious—the addicts themselves deserve more.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

I would love to, but I am afraid that I have little time left.

We owe the move in emphasis away from harm reduction towards recovery to those who are held fast in the grip of addiction, and we owe it to their children. As many as 60,000 children in Scotland are thought to live in a family where there is drug abuse. I applaud the recognition of that in the Government's early years strategy. Part of the work is the improved drugs education programme to be rolled out both inside and outside schools, with £10 million already announced for drugs education.

Parents must also be involved in the education programme if children are to be protected from the scourge of addiction. Earlier this year, I pressed the minister to provide booklets to every Scottish family to help to educate parents, in particular on drug facts, having as a councillor delivered such a booklet to every home in my ward. I am therefore delighted that the minister has taken up the suggestion and that the publication "drugs: what every parent should know" will be distributed to every family in Scotland, with the aim of informing parents as they try to discuss this difficult issue with their children. I realise that Paul Martin was not enthused by that but, as someone who has delivered such leaflets and discussed the situation with parents, I know that they can have considerable importance in educating parents.

The Government's efforts to strengthen the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, which helps to prevent criminals from benefiting from their ill-gotten gains by confiscating their assets, are a further positive step, with seized assets being used in the front-line fight against those who stalk our streets peddling drugs. That will, of course, be further reinforced by the fact that there will be an additional 1,000 police officers in place by 2011.

I am optimistic that Scotland can win the long, hard fight against drugs, which is one which every MSP can back. I urge all members to support the Government's vision and motion.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour 3:55 pm, 4th June 2008

I begin by referring members to the declaration in my register of interests on the work that I continue to do for the Edinburgh alcohol and drug action team on the single shared assessment.

No member can take issue with the direction of travel that is embodied in the strategy. Obviously, recovery is important, but the clear message that the Parliament must send out is that recovery is not as Kenny Gibson has just described it. What he proposed is entirely the wrong message for the Parliament to send out. The message that the minister is carefully trying to give is that recovery is about a staged and progressive "movement and dynamism" from a situation of chaos that probably includes criminal activity and damage to family, children and relationships towards—yes, perhaps—the ultimate ambition of being drug free. However, the constant opposition to harm reduction and recovery is damaging to the people who deliver drug services, to users and to communities. That cannot be the Government's intention; I am sure that it is not.

In 2001, when I was in Fergus Ewing's position, I looked at the integration of services. The effective interventions unit produced a good statement on the integration of silo services. Service integration is fundamental to the delivery of recovery projects, however they are defined, yet we do not yet have service integration out there.

In 2001, we produced the report "Moving On: Education, training and employment for recovering drug users", which my successor updated in 2003. Today, many addicts are stabilised on methadone and yet do not have the opportunity to get into education or skills training because the services are not there for them. Indeed, when I was out of the Parliament for four years and working as the lead clinician for addictions in West Lothian, the first service that was cut by the otherwise excellent local authority and health board was the moving on service. The clients whom I was seeing at the time and who I was stabilising on methadone could not get on to that vital programme—that route to recovery.

Getting people on to the road to recovery takes resources. In our amendment, Labour is saying that the resources that the minister has indicated thus far are not sufficient to do the job that we all want to see done.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

I am sorry, but my time is too short for that. I regret that the time for the debate had to be cut. I think that all members are finding that difficult. Perhaps we should return, sooner rather than later, to the subject in a further chamber debate.

Other members mentioned training, which is a fundamental aspect of the debate. When I was in office, we set up the Scottish training on drugs and alcohol—STRADA—partnership, which continues to receive support as we move forward.

I do not have time to go into the whole area of criminal justice. I say to the minister in a friendly way that, back in 2001, I wanted the roll-out of drug treatment and testing orders to happen immediately, yet the final roll-out did not happen until 2005. It takes time to deliver. Labour members recognise that, but ministers need to set outcome targets—however general they are. Such targets need to be put in place, or service providers in the community, particularly the ADATs, will not be held to account in their application of the resources that they have to deliver the strategy that we all want to see.

I have a question for the minister from the Royal College of General Practitioners. The college says that the methadone programme, which is the most evidenced drugs programme, has to continue. It asks him to confirm that, as a result of his statement on "The Road to Recovery", no one will be forced to come off methadone and that reductions will never be made without patients' knowledge. I seek a guarantee from the minister that the responsibility of clinicians in that situation will be retained.

Harm reduction and recovery are not two opposites. As we read in the excellent "Essential Care" report, harm reduction and recovery are part of a continuum. That is the message that should go out from the Parliament today.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative 3:59 pm, 4th June 2008

I listened with interest to what Dr Simpson said. The issue is complex, but we must not forget how unmonitored harm reduction led us into a most critical situation. Of course methadone has a place and is one of the available tools to contain a problem, but the largely unmonitored situation was simply not acceptable.

I turn to enforcement. Several years ago—I think that it was in 2001—accompanied by other members, some of whom may be present, I visited Barlinnie prison in Glasgow. There I saw a unit to which prisoners could volunteer to go to remain off drugs. I thought that that was bizarre. The individuals were definitely making a sincere effort, but what a condemnation of the system it is that, to stay clean, prisoners had to volunteer to go into a closed unit. We must examine closely the reasons why drugs seem to be freely available in our prisons. I am not convinced that all possible appropriate efforts to prevent drugs from getting into prisons have as yet been exhausted.

As I said recently in correspondence with the minister, the degree of ingenuity that individuals demonstrate in getting drugs into our institutions would be almost praiseworthy if it were used in more constructive directions. However, people in custody should be given every opportunity to stay off drugs. Accordingly, we need to look around to see where solutions have been forthcoming. As Annabel Goldie said, we should not be inhibited about looking abroad. The Pennsylvania project undoubtedly produced the result that we all seek in Scotland. It reduced the level of drug use in prisons so that only between 1 and 2 per cent of prisoners showed the effects of drugs.

The project was many faceted. Sophisticated investigatory techniques were introduced, using all sorts of technology, all of which are available to us. We use dogs to an extent in Scotland, but their use in the Pennsylvania project was remarkably successful. Part of the project was to make it clear that it was totally and utterly unacceptable for drugs to be introduced to prisons. We have not been nearly hard enough in that respect. When someone visits a prisoner who seeks to fight an addiction, they certainly do them no favours by smuggling drugs into the jail. Those who do so need to face the consequences.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

I apologise for not taking interventions, but the debate is far too tight. Members will acknowledge that I am usually fairly generous in that respect.

The project in Pennsylvania definitely worked. In many respects, Pennsylvania is not totally different from Scotland—it has many of the social difficulties that have been evidenced here over the years, so we should consider that example. I accept that the Government has not had sufficient time since we lodged our amendment to carry out the appropriate research, but I am reassured by the minister's comment that the Government will consider the project, which is worth while.

The other aspect of enforcement that we must address relates to those who peddle in human misery. Paul Martin referred to such people. We must tackle the many-headed hydra by taking out the big heads—the Mr Bigs, who are prepared to make fortunes at the expense of many people. I am attracted by the system in southern Ireland. The Irish Government has a much more rigorous approach to the confiscation of assets than we have. We must consider that seriously. I have examined the issue in detail and believe that we should not be inhibited in adopting that approach in Scotland.

The debate is constructive. We are making progress and we must now see what develops and make things happen.

Photo of Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan Scottish National Party 4:04 pm, 4th June 2008

I, too, would like to thank the Minister for Community Safety for his statement last week launching the Government's strategy, "The Road to Recovery". I thank him not only as a citizen who is concerned about the increasing drugs problem in Scotland, but as a parent. On behalf of all who have seen loved ones succumb to the traumatic lifestyle associated with drugs, I also thank the Government for promoting its strategy.

As the minister has pointed out, 421 people in Scotland lost their lives to drugs in 2006. That number is not only worrying but a sad reflection of the society in which we live. Add to that the estimated 52,000 people with drug problems, and the 46,000 children who, not through choice, are affected by parental drug use, and we have a seriously distressing situation.

In 1995, everyone was shocked at the images of 18-year-old Leah Betts in hospital, attached to a life-support machine and fighting for her life, after taking ecstasy. In 2002, her parents—Paul, an ex-police officer, and Janet, a nurse—and her younger brother undertook a tour of schools in Scotland, telling the story of the time following Leah's death. However, there are not enough members of the Betts family to go round every pupil in Scotland to warn them of the dangers of drugs. That is why a comprehensive educational programme is vital to saving lives. It should not be up to the families of drugs victims to educate our young people on the issue.

Sadly, the cost of drugs is measured not only in lives but in the size of the burden on Scotland's finances. An estimated £2.6 billion a year is the cost of Scotland's drug problem. That equates to £238 a week to feed a heroin addiction.

The strategy focuses on assisting drug users in their aim of living a drug-free life. As has been said throughout today's debate, we should not underestimate the immense task that those people face. Therefore, it is imperative that we support the Government's move to provide resources and support to people faced with that situation.

Before the election last year, I visited the haven project in Kilmacolm; and earlier this year, I visited the moving on project in Greenock. The projects are totally different, but their ultimate aim is to ensure that people get off drugs, thus making their lives a lot better, and making the life of the community a bit better as well.

I am delighted that we have the support of the Tories on the issue of rehabilitation; I am also delighted that Margaret Smith has said that the Lib Dems will back the Government's motion.

Some members have already spoken about methadone. Methadone does not lead to recovery for the majority of users; 90 per cent of addicts are still taking methadone after five years. However, methadone still has an important role in helping to stabilise people, as the moving on project in Greenock has shown.

If we look at the figures, we see that only 3 per cent of methadone users are completely clean after three years, compared with 30 per cent of those treated in rehab, so the benefits of focusing on rehabilitation are obvious.

The road to recovery for drug users is difficult and must be taken in small steps. I am pleased that the SNP Government strategy is starting off on that journey for a healthier Scotland—and for a Scotland that is prepared to take a new approach to tackling the drugs menace that our communities face.

Photo of Duncan McNeil Duncan McNeil Labour 4:08 pm, 4th June 2008

Today's debate has been constructive. Who among us would disagree with the scale of the drugs problem in Scotland and the scale of the chaos that it brings to the lives of individual users, their families and people in the community at large? Who would disagree that people who face inequality and exclusion are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs? Who would disagree with a strategy that has, at its heart, the ambition to move us on from harm reduction and towards recovery? I certainly would not.

Who could possibly disagree with the objective of giving young people the knowledge and support that will ensure that they can make better choices, or disagree with acknowledging that parents and the wider family have an important role in the preventive strategy?

In the chamber last week, we heard the minister saying that the Government does not condone or promote the use of any illegal drug. However, if the consensus that exists this week and that we had last week is to go beyond the chamber, we would like to hear the minister condemn a little more the drug-abusing lifestyle, which cannot be an excuse or justification for criminality, antisocial behaviour or violence in our communities, which are themselves innocent victims of a drug culture and drug dealing.

The strategy looks to recovery. We have high hopes for that, but not much has been said in the debate about the fact that with the strategy comes a recognition that some people choose to take drugs and enjoy them, and that some drug users, perhaps the majority, will remain on methadone for a very long time indeed, if they ever come off it.

We need to acknowledge that under this strategy, smoking drugs is moving on from injecting drugs. Residential rehabilitation has poor rates of return at the moment, and those rates must improve if we are to see any significant improvement in the problem.

If the significant problem of drug addiction continues to be with us, all the negative impacts on society will also continue. Tom Wood, until recently chair of the Scottish Association of Alcohol and Drug Action Teams, said in evidence to the Parliament's Health and Sport Committee:

"If we are ever to get ahead of the problem ... We need to invest in young people and families. We need to invest in the unborn and young children who are in an environment in which there are alcohol or drug-dependent people, instead of pouring lots of money into lost causes."—[Official Report, Health and Sport Committee, 14 November 2007; c 162.]

I will need to cut my speech because we are pressed for time. On 9 August last year, the Minister for Children and Early Years said in a written answer that the needs of children at risk were being discussed, identified and met. On 6 September 2007, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice advised me that he was discussing children at risk with his Cabinet colleagues. On 27 September, he assured me in the chamber that those discussions had indeed taken place. On 25 November, the Minister for Children and Early Years told me in a letter on behalf of his ministerial colleagues that

"ministers are driving progress on this important and complex agenda."

That was not evident, I am afraid, in the minister's statement to Parliament last week. If we are driving forward this agenda, we need to get more action and maybe just a little less consensus.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

I call Brian Adam, to be followed by Cathy Jamieson. Sorry, I call Jamie Stone, to be followed by Brian Adam—my apologies.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat 4:12 pm, 4th June 2008

You had me worried there, Presiding Officer. For that reason, I shall be brief and give you extra time.

I want to bring a remote and rural perspective to the debate. It would be easy to think that in a beautiful, vast and far-flung constituency such as mine, amidst the straths and the hills, the drug menace does not face us—but it does. I wish to make two points, but first I want to pick up on comments that my colleague Margaret Smith made. She said that resources need to be spread "across the board" and that we need "a person-centred approach". She also referred to every family being sent an information leaflet.

The thought that occurs to me, my constituents and those who are knowledgeable about the drug problem in Caithness and Easter Ross is that it is well and good to send every family a leaflet—that is to be commended—but outreach to families across great distances is a hard issue to deal with indeed. Margaret Smith rightly talked about resources being needed across the board; I believe that that board is a geographic board, which the minister, representing the constituency that he does, will acknowledge, and that presents a challenge that must be addressed, because if there is to be a person-centred approach, it must be about outreach. Therefore, I warmly welcome the motion, which my party supports, but with the caveat that the resources must be there to tackle the problem. The minister is nodding so I see that he acknowledges that.

I quote Councillor Graeme Smith from Wick, the vice-convener of the Caithness drug and alcohol forum, who said:

"Centres with experts in cities like Inverness are all very good, indeed they are essential, but to properly respond to rural and smaller town drug abuse we must have a far more robust rural outreach programme. More innovative ways of connecting with the substance mis-users must be found. More resource is required to deal with mis-use issues in rural areas. Substance mis-users are often dysfunctional in some respect and need easy access to help. This is not often found in areas of low population density."

It is not possible to put it more eloquently than that.

I echo the points that have been made about education. Paul Martin was the first member after the minister to mention it—he talked about ring fencing funding for drugs education—and our colleague Mr McMillan mentioned it as well. Of all the pillars of society's approach to drugs, education and communication can have a permanent effect. Policing and treatment are essentially reactive; education can be truly proactive. It remains the case that prevention is better than cure.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

I am sorry, but I do not have time.

I find it astonishing that parents like me and people in general throughout Scotland remain ignorant of drugs. The failure to recognise arising problems in children or colleagues is there for one to see. Education, not only for children in schools but across the board, will help with that.

I will conclude with those remarks, unless Dr Simpson wants to make an intervention at this stage. I could take one, I guess.

Photo of Richard Simpson Richard Simpson Labour

Has Jamie Stone talked to the Highland youth council about its response to the education programme that became compulsory under my watch? He might find that interesting. The issue is not only education but how we deliver it and the quality of it.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party 4:16 pm, 4th June 2008

I will ask the minister what might be a hard question: what reduction have we had in drug-related crime as a consequence of the significant rise in the number of people on methadone in the past two or three years? The number of people on methadone has gone up from around 16,000 to around 20,000; if the argument that methadone treatment reduces harm to society is correct—I believe that, broadly speaking, it is—we should have seen a significant reduction in drug-related crime as the numbers of people on it have increased. The minister might not be in a position to give a definitive answer on that today, but I would be happy enough if he wrote to me.

Part of the debate and one of the differences between the parties—which I hope are subtle rather than substantive—is how one measures whether the drugs strategy is successful or otherwise. Milestones and targets have a place, but we really want to know what will happen at the end of the journey—what the outcomes are. Some of the other events that we may wish to measure and in which we may have an interest are merely staging posts on the way there.

In my neck of the woods, the number of people waiting to get drugs treatment was ridiculously high. At one time, Aberdeen had 800 or 1,200 people on waiting lists, but I am delighted to say that, in the past quarter or so, the number has dropped from 780 to 640. Something positive has happened there.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

If I can complete this part of my speech, I will try to let Margo MacDonald in.

The overall journey needs to be integrated. We can get people on treatment and they may remain on it, but how we get them out at the other end presents problems. My colleague, Stuart McMillan, talked about moving on, as did Dr Simpson. I have had some correspondence today about progress to work, which is also about moving people on. It is a Department of Work and Pensions programme, and the Aberdeen joint alcohol and drugs action team has about 100 people on it. However, because more people are now going into treatment, there is a need to get more folk on the programme. That highlights the difficulty with setting targets—the unintended consequences of measurements and how we assess success—to which the minister has referred.

If appropriate provision is not made, we will not reach the recovery stage. To get to the recovery stage, we must also have the treatment stage. We need to have an integrated approach and I would be delighted to hear ministers address how we will deal with programmes such as progress to work in Aberdeen, which is not delivering as much as it could, and how we will engage with our counterparts elsewhere to achieve that.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour 4:20 pm, 4th June 2008

As we have heard during the course of the debate so far, there is no argument with the idea of moving towards recovery and aiming for people to have drug-free lives. However, we need to be honest about the challenges. Ultimately, we are dealing with the behaviour of individuals, and individuals need to take some responsibility for change.

As we have also heard today, parents will have worries and concerns. For parents living in the areas that are most blighted by drug misuse, those concerns are amplified. In those areas, parents see the dealers plying their trade on a daily basis. People in those communities find it hard to understand why that continues. They perhaps think that the authorities are turning a blind eye, which is why the drug dealers don't care campaign was so important in sending a message to communities that we are on their side in trying to stop the drug dealing happening, cleaning up the streets and demonstrating that drug dealing does not pay.

Drug misuse does not just hit some areas; it happens across all communities. Irrespective of whether people are well off or on low incomes, having a serious drug-misuser in the family can bring stigma, loss of property and untold damage to family relationships. I have met families who have been so desperate that they have spent their life savings or borrowed money to pay for treatment. Some families have come under so much pressure from the user that they have borrowed cash to feed his or her habit or have put themselves outside the law to get the drugs that the user needs if there is a crisis and if they cannot get quick access to a detox facility.

Community treatment will be suitable for some, but I hope that assessments will take account of the impact on family support. If we want a long-term treatment plan—a road to recovery—we must support the family in a way that makes sense for them. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Sometimes, the support that families need is not necessarily the same as what the plethora of professionals will want for them. Sometimes, that means using a residential facility, largely to give the family respite and to let them regain the strength to cope, and also to bring the drug user back into the community.

Helplines and leaflets are useful, but I would say as gently as I can that, when the crisis point is reached, the father whose son or daughter is the latest overdose victim lying on the floor in front of him, the mother whose housekeeping money has been stolen and spent on drugs for the third or fourth week in a row, the brother or sister who has been physically and verbally lambasted by the drug user to get them money for their next fix or the grandparent who has to step in and stop the children getting neglected need practical help from people who understand the problem that they face, who will not judge them at the point of crisis and who will focus their attention on getting the drug-using person into treatment. I worry about the apparent lack of a target for getting people in at the front end. If we do not get people into treatment programmes at the front end, we will certainly not get them out the other end.

I hope that, when he sums up, the minister will identify how the strategy will support those families who are in crisis at that key moment when they need access to treatment. Will every area have a 24-hour helpline, with access to on-call out-of-hours support? What will be done to continue to tackle waiting lists—a point that Brian Adam made—and access to treatment? What specific action will be taken to ensure that residential places are available in all areas, or are at least accessible from all areas, and that there is no continuation of postcode-based provision? To follow on from the point that Annabel Goldie made, will all facilities be considered for use as part of the process?

I hope that the minister can address those points, as well as the points that have been made about kinship care. As Duncan McNeil has said, we expected more in the follow-up from the "Hidden Harm" report. I certainly did not expect grandparents who are involved with children who are on court orders to be excluded from the possibility of getting financial support, as seems to have happened.

Photo of Ian McKee Ian McKee Scottish National Party 4:24 pm, 4th June 2008

The thrust of the motion is that we should depend less on a drug treatment policy that relies on maintenance—on prescribing a substitute such as methadone more or less indefinitely in order to introduce some sort of stability into a person's life—and instead explore ways of curing the drug user of his or her habit and expanding greatly the facilities for drug withdrawal and rehabilitation, so that a person is free of the tyranny of drugs for ever. One cannot deny that that definition of recovery is an attractive philosophy. However, my concern is that there is a slight degree of wishful thinking in it and that we risk ignoring the reality that lies before us.

I have many years' experience of looking after people with a drug problem. That does not guarantee that I can come up with all the right ideas on how to proceed, because there is always the possibility that I have been so close to the problem that I cannot see the wood for the trees. However, I know that people interact with drugs in many ways and for many reasons. Some people use drugs recreationally. Many can cope perfectly well with their chosen lifestyle and enjoy the experience. However, some become addicted. With help and determination, they can become drug free, in the same way that some people with an alcohol problem can be helped, and they can go back into society and live normal lives.

There are others, who are mainly living impoverished lives in less than adequate social and economic circumstances, for whom the future is not so positive. Many can be identified before they are born—they can certainly be identified in the early years of childhood. They form the great bulk of the 200 to 250 drug users whom my practice looked after in the year that I retired. Given that they are emotionally, educationally and financially disadvantaged, they turn to drugs for a variety of complex reasons. Unless we can somehow change their entire circumstances, their total and permanent withdrawal from drugs will be impossible. Any attempt by others to force the pace of withdrawal, however gentle, is almost always doomed to failure. I know that, because I tried it many times in the early days without success. That is why the use of the word "targets" in the Labour amendment causes me concern.

I never met a person who wanted to stay on drugs for ever and I believed their sentiments to be genuine, but when life off drugs is to be the same as it was before drugs, life on drugs sometimes seems the more favourable option. How do we tackle that? A recent television programme that extolled the benefits of residential care in helping people to come off drugs featured an interview with a young man who was one of its successes. He came from a Scottish housing estate, but, on leaving the home, he said that he was emigrating to England, because his only chance of staying off drugs was to leave his former community behind.

We cannot export all our recovered drug users to England. Giving them houses, training and jobs is fine, but what message does that send to people who are not on drugs? Does it send the message that taking drugs is their best chance of a new house and a new job? We will reduce dramatically the number of drug takers only when we correct the factors that lead to drug taking in the first place and treat communities. Until then, it will be a long haul. Maintenance treatment, with not just methadone but other preparations such as suboxone, will still have an important role. Complex problems do not succumb to simple solutions. However, I am pleased that the Government has at least turned its attention to the subject.

Photo of Johann Lamont Johann Lamont Labour 4:28 pm, 4th June 2008

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this serious debate. It is important to build consensus, but it is simply wrong to suggest that that has not been done in the past, because there is huge evidence that it has been done.

The Minister for Community Safety said in his statement to the Parliament last week that there was a concern because of the terrible health inequalities that afflict Scotland. Of course, the bigger challenge is the inequalities that exist within Scotland. We know that many young people experiment with drugs, but the reality is that communities that experience disadvantage and deprivation lose their children to drugs and the accompanying death toll disproportionately. Those communities understand that. Yes, we have to have a person-centred approach, but we also have to have a community-centred approach. We cannot simply say that that is what happens in such communities; we must listen to people in those communities who suffer as a consequence of drugs being taken and we must take account of the impact on the broader community. Regardless of whether people in those communities take drugs themselves, they see the impact on their schools, health centres and the very fabric of their neighbourhoods. The life chances of their children can be determined by our inability to address the consequence of drugs. It is therefore important for the minister to reaffirm that the Scottish index of multiple deprivation will remain a key driver in distributing resources across a range of services in order properly to meet need.

Of course, there are always those who wish to create the impression that the debate around drugs is somehow about opposites—that it is either maintenance or abstinence—but I acknowledge that the minister confirmed that the Government's strategy does not seek to come down on one side or the other in that way. However, I believe that talking about targets drives action by those who are charged with the responsibility for supporting people who have a drug problem. In that regard, will the minister consider setting one target in particular, on the level of methadone use? Does he accept that meeting such a target would indicate the success of the strategy?

There are huge challenges around the issue of hidden harm. It is a scandal that the torch is shone on the lives that some of our children live only by those who are raising issues about antisocial behaviour in their communities. Only then do we learn about some of the experiences that too many of our children have, and that is wrong. We have a strategy for young carers, but we do not say often enough that too many of those young people are caring for adults who have addiction problems and that that is inappropriate. I urge the minister to confirm that he will place the drug strategy in the broader context of the Administration's policies on education, housing, employment, justice and enforcement. I know that there are anxieties locally about projects that support people into work and which work by addressing those problems.

I note the strategy document on drugs. However, if the minister resources families that have experienced a problem with drugs to talk about what needs to be done in our communities to address the broader problems that are faced there, there will be a large return for that effort. Therefore, I want to know what support there is for family support projects. Further, I want to know that schools will not only provide education, but will be places in which the teachers and staff identify children who are in need; schools should be the first place in which it is seen that a child is not being nurtured. The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning has described the skills strategy as demand led—does it still have a place for those with drug and addiction problems, for whom employment is an important bridge?

I ask the minister to respond to the comments that were made about the power of Crimestoppers to use proceeds-of-crime money in the communities in which it was harvested to give people a voice. I know constituents who whisper on the telephone in case people hear them and think that they are talking to the police. I urge the minister to support Crimestoppers and other initiatives that give a voice to those who are most intimidated by the consequences of drug problems in our communities.

Photo of Alasdair Morgan Alasdair Morgan Scottish National Party

We move to winding-up speeches. I will have to shave about half a minute off each speaker's time.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat 4:32 pm, 4th June 2008

The Liberal Democrat amendment attempts to inject a sense that the Government has to accept its responsibility for delivery, rather than simply noting what is contained in the excellent strategy document, "The Road to Recovery". The Liberal Democrats are happy, as my colleague Margaret Smith made clear, to support the principal thrust of the strategy, which has the idea of recovery at its heart and recognises the importance of a person-centred approach.

Dr Ian McKee and Johann Lamont emphasised the need to take an holistic approach. This is not simply a matter of criminal justice or community health; we must also take into account the circumstances in which many of our people get themselves into problems with drugs. The issues touch on deprivation, child poverty, health inequalities, education—as Johann Lamont said—and the environment in which people live and which results in many of them feeling the sense of hopelessness that leads to them resorting to drugs. Those points need to be woven into the fabric of what we are trying to do.

Annabel Goldie pointed out, rightly, that we have to recognise the importance of the Audit Scotland report with regard to the resources that might be available for any action that will be taken. We should not lose sight of that.

We can all sign up to the principles of the report, but there are two broad themes on which the Government must indicate to us that it is taking matters forward and is not simply awaiting the outcome of the Audit Scotland report—that report must not be used as an excuse for inaction.

The "Promoting Recovery" section of the report calls for more community facilities, detoxification, relapse prevention, harm reduction and so on. If all those measures are to be improved and if their provision is to be increased, the Government must assure us that it is working to deliver that, so that when resources become available, further delay does not take place as we enter into further planning and discussion.

If we are talking about changing the approach, that raises questions about prescribing substitute drugs, increasing the alternatives to methadone and supervision of methadone. I accept what the minister—who has, sadly, left us—said: he is not there to second-guess clinicians. However, a massive change will be required in the culture of how people deal with the problem. That may involve elements of resource, but it also creates a clear need for the Government to say that it wants a change in that culture. The Government will have to drive and lead that change in the cultural approach to how we take people from being on methadone or another substance to another form of treatment. It is critical to hear from the Government about that.

Through consulting clinicians, we need to know where we stand on the alternatives to methadone. Given that our culture has been that methadone was almost the only show in town, we need to hear what the alternatives are and how they are to be progressed. The report refers to pharmacological therapies, but non-pharmacological therapies also exist. As communities, we need to know about those treatments, so that we can discuss them in more detail.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Does the member accept that administering methadone via a pharmacist is cheaper than providing a team of support workers for a drug addict who is not taking methadone?

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

I regret to tell Margo MacDonald that, as the time for my speech is short, I do not want to go into that issue.

I am concerned that, if the clinical advice is that we should have more use of supervision of methadone and of alternatives to methadone, the Government must make that clearer now, rather than wait until resources become available. Evidence shows that health care professionals genuinely believe that supervised consumption encourages engagement and treatment compliance. However, the same evidence also suggests that only one in five patients believes that that is the purpose of supervision. If we are to have a change in culture, we must address those issues. If more resources become available, we will require that planning.

As for Labour's amendment, I think that the Government is correct to move towards outcomes, although I would prefer them to be much clearer—my colleague Margaret Smith called for that. I am pleased that the Conservatives did not move their amendment, because the use of the word "adopt" in Annabel Goldie's amendment would have made it difficult for us to support.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

We are very supportive of the report's main thrust and we are happy to support it in principle.

Photo of Mary Scanlon Mary Scanlon Conservative 4:38 pm, 4th June 2008

This has been a good debate on one of the most important issues, which affects many people throughout Scotland. Conservatives made the commitment to choice, abstinence, recovery and re-engagement in our manifesto and we are pleased to honour that commitment by supporting the strategy.

As Annabel Goldie said, we are moving to solving the problem and not just managing it. The move to open-mindedness about what works is welcome. We also welcome the choice along the road to recovery, which should be for patients and clinicians and not for politicians.

Labour's amendment is premature. The Conservatives called for Audit Scotland's investigation. As the Health and Sport Committee knows, until we know where the money is going and how effective that spend is, spending more on justice and health matters—as Labour requests—would be unwise. More might need to be spent on education to address the truancy link, for example.

The fact that every £1 that is spent on recovery results in a saving of £9.50 on other services was well costed in our manifesto, but the benefit of a parent, son or daughter returning to their family cannot be measured financially.

There have been mixed messages on drugs—particularly on cannabis—from the Westminster Government. That has not been helpful. Cannabis is the most commonly used illegal drug in Scotland; cocaine is the next most commonly used; and ecstasy is the third most commonly used. I raise the issue because recreational drug use today can become problematic drug use tomorrow. Neither cannabis nor cocaine users are included in the estimated 52,000 problem drug users, but there is no doubt that the detox and rehab facilities and prevention strategies that we are considering will need to take into account the proliferation of what are known as recreational drugs in the future. I am not implying that everyone who uses those drugs will become a problem drug user, but some will. Poly drug use alongside the consumption of alcohol is a serious issue that cannot be ignored in the debate.

Much has been said about children who are affected by drug-addicted parents. There are up to 60,000 such children in Scotland. I hope that the minister will ensure that any cutbacks in local government funding to voluntary groups will not prevent young carers groups from being adequately and appropriately funded. As Jamie Stone knows, there is a particularly excellent group in Golspie; there are also excellent young carers groups in many other villages and towns in Scotland, with child carers for people with a cross-section of diseases and parents with addictions. As Johann Lamont said, the responsibility on those young children should be underestimated.

I am concerned about the minister's confidence—if that is the right word—in alcohol and drug action teams delivering such an important drugs strategy. As members have mentioned, the stocktake of ADATs concluded that although many had done excellent work, there were serious shortcomings in many of them, and that clarity about their remit and function was needed. The Health and Sport Committee was even told in evidence that their accountability is not clear, and it was alleged that they are not empowered to do the job that they should be doing. I hope that the minister will look closely at the delivery of the strategy through ADATs.

My main concern about "The Road to Recovery" relates to the desperate need for dual diagnosis—the need for detox and rehab services to address people's mental health issues as well as their addictions. That is critical, given that an estimated 42 per cent of drug addicts have mental health problems. Those problems may be the result of their taking drugs, but they could also be the underlying cause of their taking drugs, which may be a form of self-medication. Whatever the cause and effect, it seems that there is no point in treating a person's addiction unless services are also in place to address their mental health problems. That said, the Scottish drug services directory does not offer an option to search for mental health treatment, and the Scottish Government has confirmed that it does not have a list of dual diagnosis facilities and that it has not produced such a list. I ask the minister to consider that matter.

Finally, paragraph 98 on page 27 of "The Road to Recovery" mentions

"a strong association between unemployment and poor mental health."

Even if a person successfully comes through detox and rehab, their mental health problem will be an obstacle to employment.

I ask the minister to ensure that the issues that I have raised are addressed.

Photo of Pauline McNeill Pauline McNeill Labour 4:44 pm, 4th June 2008

The drugs problem is so huge that Labour accepts the need to focus on a critique of the new strategy and to discuss how we can all make it work. We will not be consensual for the sake of it, however. We recognise that the drugs problem is one of the biggest challenges that Scotland faces—indeed, it is one of the biggest challenges across the globe. It is up to Governments to provide leadership and strategy that will take us forward by providing the right types of service with the aim of getting people off drugs and into a better life. Proper resources and a way of showing what progress is being made should be provided. We reserve the right to scrutinise the detail of the policy on the ground. Far from rushing to judgment, we are doing our job in opposition. Communities need to know that, as well as resourcing services to tackle drug misuse, we will not tolerate drugs or drug dealing, as Cathy Jamieson and Johann Lamont outlined; that we will jail all drug dealers; and that we will ensure that our powers to enforce the law are up to date.

The message on enforcement is not helped by the approach that the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service is taking, which means that the value of class A drugs involved must be more than £100,000 and the value of class B drugs involved must be more than £250,000 before a case will go to the High Court. The fact that we are dealing with more seizures does not mean that we should downgrade the status of the cases. We desperately need a discussion with the Crown Office about enforcement. I hope that ministers will agree that it is also a matter for Parliament to ensure that the right messages are given to the public about how we deal with drug dealers and drug seizures.

I have said many times before in similar debates that the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency is crucial in dealing with the seizure of drugs and drug dealers. I know that the Government believes that, too. For that reason, I again ask the Government to reconsider the structures for the agency and free it from the Scottish Police Services Authority. The current arrangement is not working and the Government needs to look at it again.

The Labour Party amendment is an attempt to be constructive. For the purposes of moving on, we will concede that the Government is taking a fresh approach with a new strategy and has charitably recognised the previous Government's work, on which it is building. I agree with many members who have talked about the need to take an all-encompassing approach. Failure to make progress is not an option for our communities, which are blighted by the prevalence of drugs and drug dealers who are exploiting them. Our communities need to know that the Government is still committed to the drug dealers don't care campaign, or its own version of it. They want assurances that the proceeds of crime moneys—which the Government is spending and is about to announce—are being invested directly into those communities that are most blighted by drug dealing.

Many members have talked frankly about the methadone programme. A former director of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, Graeme Pearson, who was a guest at the Labour Party conference, said that the number of people in Scotland who are now on methadone is ridiculous. He has joined what has become a controversial debate, along with many others. In a genuinely constructive way, I ask for a bit of clarity on the issue. As the minister rightly said, the prescription of methadone is a matter for clinicians—no one has said that it should not be. I agree with Stuart McMillan that the methadone programme is an essential part of the drugs strategy. Scotland's pharmacies and local health providers are doing a good job of conducting the programme and stabilising drug users, helping them to live a positive life. I do not see a change of policy direction, but the minister did not say the words out loud and, so that I am sure about it, when the cabinet secretary sums up I would like to hear from him that that is the Government's position.

There is a need to address some of the complacency that might have set in and to move those who are on the methadone programme on to the next stage. That is where the strategy should now focus. We are not demanding that users be forced off the programme or that time limits be imposed; we are asking for the focus to be moved to getting drug users to the final stages of their rehabilitation. As Johann Lamont pointed out—and I agree with the Government's strategy on this—the drugs strategy alone will not be enough. A strategy of regeneration and recognition of inequalities is absolutely fundamental. I could be wrong, but I suspect that there is a little bit of a difference between the Government and the Conservatives in their approaches to the methadone programme. I would like some clarity on that from the cabinet secretary.

Duncan McNeil has spoken many times in the chamber about an issue that he cares about and which many other members have talked about, too: the 40,000 to 60,000 children who are affected by parental drug misuse. Too many of those children become addicts and their life chances are reduced. Children suffer in silence and they are often not known to the services that need to find them. The "Hidden Harm" report was one of the previous Administration's best policy documents. I hope that the Government agrees and can build on its findings.

Labour supports the Liberal Democrat amendment because we are saying similar things. Leadership is required and resourcing is fundamental to the strategy. Because it is such a huge challenge, Labour is not prepared to leave resourcing to chance so that, further down the line, we have to haggle. We want to see the funding and we want to see it now.

I do not understand why the Government is frightened to set targets and have indicators of progress. If it believes in its strategy, it must be prepared to demonstrate that it is making progress. We are not asking for any particular targets, just for some indication that the Government believes in its strategy, otherwise it will give the impression that it does not want to be judged on it.

We welcome the extension of drug treatment and testing orders. I and others—Richard Simpson and Annabel Goldie, for example—have argued many times that DTTOs are an important intervention. However, I ask the minister to consider extending them further, perhaps to Glasgow, where 90 per cent of street prostitutes who have a drug problem do not get access to DTTOs; it would be helpful if they did.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party 4:51 pm, 4th June 2008

As many have said, the debate has been wide-ranging. Some contributions have been truncated because of the time restrictions and I believe that I speak for everyone when I say that that is a matter for regret. My colleague Fergus Ewing would have made many more points but he was constrained by the lack of time, which might also apply to me.

We welcome the spirit in which all parties have come to the debate and the general welcome for "The Road to Recovery". We also accept that the drugs problem is not only affecting us now, but has done so for almost a generation. We have sought to deal with the issue by consensus, as did previous Administrations, which is as it should be.

As members said, it is not a problem for western democracies alone. Probably every country in the global economy faces difficulties with the international drugs trade and the problems that go with it. We must also recognise that larger and wealthier countries that have more resources for criminal justice, such as the United States of America, have significantly greater problems.

That is why we must take a people-centred approach at the same time as taking account of our communities, as Cathy Jamieson said. We need that flexibility. As several speakers said, as well as ensuring that we rigorously enforce penalties for supplying drugs, we must tackle demand.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Without responsibility for the supply chain into the United Kingdom, or, in our case, into Scotland, how rigorous can we be in our monitoring?

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

We need have no worries about full co-operation. Scotland is very well served by the SCDEA, as Pauline McNeill and others mentioned. We work closely with the Serious Organised Crime Agency, which is responsible for monitoring, and we are close to HM Revenue and Customs and the serious and organised crime task force, much of which relates to the drugs trade, but which also seeks to address other areas of crime. The member can rest assured that all those bodies represent us, even those that are based in the UK. Whether it be HMRC, SOCA, the SCDEA or the Scottish police, we are all on the same side. I also assure the member that we are working with Europol because we recognise that we have to work and co-operate not only with our closest neighbour and jurisdiction south of the border, but with countries elsewhere, whether Columbia, Spain, or the Balkans. We are well served by those organisations. Whether the matter is reserved to the UK or is one for the Scottish police, there is common cause across the criminal justice agencies, as there should be in the chamber.

That brings me to prisons. The Tories are right to raise the issue and I look forward to meeting Annabel Goldie tomorrow, and Bill Aitken, if he accompanies her. Something is clearly wrong. It is not something that is being done deliberately, but there are problems. Annabel Goldie correctly said that we must learn from others, and if it is a lesson from the jurisdiction of the liberty bell—the irony of that—we will be happy to accept it. There are differences and difficulties in respect of how the prison system in the United States is structured and the separation that exists there between short-term prisoners—what we might call bail prisoners—and those on remand, and those who are in for long periods of time. There is also a difference in the United States between federal and state penitentiaries, but the ethos that is being put forward by the Conservatives is correct. Something is wrong and we must tackle the problem. We must assist and support the Scottish Prison Service to try to ensure that those who go to prison do not end up with an addiction, and that prisoners who are seeking to break the cycle of crime by addressing the issues that are causing it have that opportunity. I hope to work with the SPS and we will make every effort to ensure that it is represented at tomorrow's meeting so that it can comment on Pennsylvania, in addition to offering its views on how to tackle the problem.

Members have raised issues about the SCDEA, which is obviously close to my heart as the Cabinet Secretary for Justice. Members can rest assured that we have written to the UK authorities to ensure that the powers on recovering the proceeds of crime are strengthened and deepened. We have made it clear as a Government that those who are involved in a lifetime of offending should face a lifetime of recovery of their assets. We have asked those responsible south of the border to broaden the approach and to reduce the threshold because, if we are to target not only the Mr Bigs but the street dealers, which is essential if we are to drive home in our communities the message that people should not aspire to be drug dealers, we must take the assets of the person in the housing scheme as well as those of the person who resides in a lush housing estate off the backs of other people.

We seek to learn from Ireland. Assistant Chief Constable John Malcolm was recently at a conference in Ireland and we will learn lessons, whether it is from the Garda Síochána or the Police Service of Northern Ireland. We should look at their methods of recovering the proceeds of crime. I assure Bill Aitken that I will keep both him and the Parliament advised of how we hope to drive the matter forward.

The points that Richard Simpson raised about methadone are correct. We believe that it is a matter for clinicians and we will not give any strictures that people have to have a timetable or time limit. Margaret Smith also raised that issue.

The matter is very complicated. We are, as a nation, in a mess on methadone. Nobody ever set out to create a situation in which people are parked on methadone—with all the consequences of that for not only them, but their families and their communities—but that situation has arisen. We must try to get people off methadone, but it is not a matter of seeking to reduce the number of those people overnight. We must work individually with them and take the best possible advice, which we will seek to do.

On indicators or targets, we are giving Parliament a clear indication that we believe that indicators are necessary. That is the whole ethos of the new relationships that the Government is forming through the concordat. Tackling drugs must be dealt with consensually not only across the chamber and in other political forums, but with all the agencies that are involved.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I am afraid that the cabinet secretary is in his last minute.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Scottish National Party

Health services, social work and the police all have a role. We must work with each of those agencies to find out what the best indicators are to ensure, as Margo MacDonald said, that public funds are accounted for and that we make the best use of them. That is why the Minister for Community Safety has asked Audit Scotland to examine the expenditure. We cannot throw money at the issue; we must ensure that the money that we put into tackling the scourge of drugs is used effectively.

We are setting out on this new strategy and we welcome the consensus. It would have taken the wisdom of Solomon to guarantee that the strategy is a surefire solution. Some things that we do might not necessarily work as effectively as we would intend and we will have to learn lessons from that, but we will have more success with other actions. When new matters arise, such as the issue raised by the Tories about tackling the drug problem in prisons, members can rest assured that we will tackle them. We take on board the points made by many members—in particular Cathy Jamieson and Duncan McNeil—that problems exist not only for individual adults but for their children who are affected. We owe it to them to build on the consensus, to tackle the drugs problem and to make this a better country.