South Scotland MSP, Emma Harper is to meet with the new Minister for Drug Policy, Angela Constance MSP, who has recently been appointed to tackle problem drug use across Scotland.
Ms Harper made a speech in last week’s drugs deaths debate (Thursday 14 January) saying that the *drug related death figures published in December, showing 35 drug related deaths in Dumfries & Galloway, are unacceptable and that changes were needed quickly, with new and innovative, person centred approach, to better deal with problem drug across Scotland.
Congratulating the Scottish Government’s new Minister for Drug Policy, Angela Constance, on her appointment, Ms Harper, who is Deputy Convenor of the Health and Sport Committee, said Ms Constance’s experience in both Government and in her work prior to her MSP role in social work would be hugely beneficial in this vitally important role.
Ms Harper commented;
“I am delighted to welcome the new Minister for Drug Policy, Angela Constance, to this role and I look forward to meeting with her to discuss the drug misuse across Dumfries & Galloway. Each and every drug and alcohol related death is a tragedy and I offer my condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of those who have lost their lives. Drug policy and the issue of drug deaths in Scotland is one which I have been active in since my election to this Parliament and as Deputy Convenor of the Health and Sport Committee, I had the opportunity to participate in the Westminster Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry into Scottish drug related deaths in 2019.
“I am meeting the Minister for Drugs Policy to discuss the issue of problem drug, and support services, across remote and rural parts of Scotland – such as Dumfries and Galloway. I asked for a commitment from the Minister that any policy approach moving forward will ensure that rural parts of Scotland are absolutely included, considered and listened to”.
Ms Harper also praised the work of Dumfries & Galloway Alcohol and Drugs Partnership whom she said had taken several steps to improve the situation within the region, including the distribution of naloxone kits, which can prevent fatal heroin overdose and an assertive outreach programme which aims to support issues of housing, access to social security, food and promoting independent living support before people reach crisis point.
Ms Harper said a recovery and support approach was the right way to assist problem drug use rather than a punitive approach through the criminal justice system.
Last year Ms Harper contributed to Scottish Affairs Committee Inquiry which heard directly from drug and alcohol support agencies, health services, academics, those with lived experience, as well as families who have been affected by problem drug use. All witnesses agreed that urgent reform is needed to solve the issue of drug deaths both in Scotland, and across the UK. The inquiry also heard from experts from countries such as Portugal, Germany and Canada, to examine the evidence from international examples of countries taking a progressive public health, and not a punitive approach, to tackling problem drug use. In doing so, it was found that the levels of drug deaths and addiction in these countries reduced significantly – including by as much as 40% in Canada.
The Scottish Parliament and Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry recommended that personal amounts of drugs should be decriminalised, and that the UK Government must urgently bring forward legislation that will allow for the devolution of power to the Scottish Parliament to allow Scotland to have its own approach to the issue, including through the establishment of safe consumption rooms in Scotland.
Ms Harper said she welcomed that over the course of this parliament the Scottish Government, within the limited powers available, has already taken a range of action to tackle the issue of drug related harm including the National Naloxone Programme and the continued distribution of take-home naloxone kits, and the pilot programme for nasal naloxone for police in our cities. Additional funding and recruitment of two posts within the Scottish Drugs Forum has also been made, including a National Naloxone Coordinator and a Drug Death Prevention post and the funding of the Scottish Drug deaths database.