Drug Deaths

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 17th December 2020.

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Photo of Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon Scottish National Party

This is the first opportunity that I have had to address the issue in the chamber. The figures that were published this week are completely unacceptable and no one will hear political answers from me on the subject today. We have much to do to sort this out—and sorting it out is our responsibility, and it is a serious responsibility.

Behind every one of the statistics is a human being whose life mattered: someone’s son or daughter, mother or father, brother or sister. I say that I am sorry to every family who has suffered grief. Every person who dies an avoidable death because of drug abuse has been let down.

The fact is that the issue is difficult and complex, but that is not an excuse. There is much work under way, which is being led by the public health minister and the drug deaths task force. However, the figures tell us that we need to do more and quicker.

The next meeting of the task force will take place on 12 January. I will attend the meeting to take stock with the task force and to consider what further, immediate steps we need to take. I will make a statement in the chamber before the end of January after I have had that discussion, to set out what further steps we intend to take.

Undoubtedly, part of that will involve rehabilitation facilities. We have been doing mapping work—we asked a working group to do that. Between the private sector, the third sector and the public sector, there are 365 rehabilitation beds across the country. We are not satisfied that that is necessarily sufficient, or that they are being used sufficiently.

That is not the only issue; it is one of the issues that require to be considered properly and fully as we move forward to discharge that responsibility for sorting out something that is completely unacceptable. I think that all of us take that view.