Drug Treatment Services

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:07 pm on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 5:07 pm, 16th July 2019

I have already given way to the hon. Gentleman, and I am short of time.

The Misuse of Drugs Act is reserved. Where we have had powers in Scotland on alcohol, we brought in minimum unit pricing; on smoking, we brought in the end of smoking in public places. This is a medical intervention that we wish to pursue in order to save people’s lives. Glasgow, where it can, has applied for a heroin-assisted treatment programme; when that is up and running, it will be able to treat 60 people, but there are an estimated 400 to 500 people who inject publicly within Glasgow city centre alone. That medical heroin-assisted treatment programme is limited in size, scope and scale, because it is a treatment programme and people must be able to engage with that.

No doubt the programme will make a huge difference to those lives, but it almost goes without saying that if 394 people died in Glasgow last year, and it can only deal with 60 people at a time, it is not enough. It is clear that we need the entry level that drug consumption rooms will give, meaning that people can go in without any kind of barrier or stigma associated with seeking help, and are able to reach those treatment services. It needs to be an easy way for people to get in and get treatment within those services.

The Scottish Government are pursuing this. We are doing what we can. We have a new drugs taskforce, chaired by Professor Catriona Matheson from the University of Stirling, which is looking at all the things we do in the Scottish Government in the round and where improvements need to be made. Both I and the Scottish Government accept that improvements need to be made, but the UK Government also need to play their part.

I will mention organisations such as Turning Point Scotland in my constituency. They drive a van around as a needle exchange, but they know that as soon as they give that needle to somebody, that person is going around to the car park at the back, to inject in a dirty back lane. That is not good enough. Not one UK Government Minister has yet come to visit Glasgow to justify their position; I urge this Minister and any of her colleagues, whoever they may be, whenever the new Prime Minister eventually turns up, to come to Glasgow and tell me why this cannot be done.