Drug Deaths

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

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The First Minister:

I said at the outset of our exchange that I am not going to give political answers. Many of the criticisms that are being made of the Government are valid and legitimate, and we have much work to do to ensure that we sort the problem of people dying avoidably from drugs. That is what we are already doing. The drug deaths task force has already undertaken many actions and recently published its forward work programme. It is not true to say that work is not being done, because considerable work is being done. However, as I said in my original answer, I believe that there are hard questions for us to address about whether that work is sufficient and whether it is being done quickly enough. I am not going to shy away from that today. That is why I will meet the task force in January and consider with it the work that is being done and the additional steps that require to be taken. As I have already said, I will come back to the chamber before the end of January and set out the conclusions from that meeting.

Rehabilitation is, undoubtedly, a part of that, which is why work is already under way to look properly at rehabilitation services across the country: what is there just now, what use is being made of those services, what more we need to do in relation to funding and access to rehabilitation services, and what needs to be done in other ways. As everybody recognises, rehabilitation is important, but it is not a panacea. We need to focus on many other things to ensure that people are not dying avoidably from drugs. That responsibility lies with me and with this Government, and it is one that we take extremely seriously.