SNP drugs minister ‘open-minded’ about ‘game-changing’ Tory policy on how to tackle deaths

An SNP minister says she has an open mind about draft legislation from Douglas Ross on how to tackle drug deaths in Scotland.

The Scottish Conservative leader is set to present his Right to Recovery Bill which would give everyone the right to receive “potentially life-saving” treatment.

Angela Constance, Minister for Drugs Policy, has been tasked to bring down the number of drug-related deaths after Scotland recorded the worst rate in Europe.

According to Ross 77 per cent of respondents supported his plans which would include residential rehabilitation.

Addiction experts have been consulted throughout the process of drafting the Bill.

Speaking on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland program today, Constance said: “Once the Bill has been published and I and others have had the opportunity to ensure that it will do what it says on the tin, I will give a view on it.

“I have an open mind about whether, at some point, we need to legislate.”

The SNP MSP said she wants to see the Bill before a decision is taken on Scottish Government support.

She added: “I’ve always said it will be given a very fair and sympathetic hearing.

“We will want to look at the detail – what they’re lodging today is a final proposition.”

“I want to see their Bill. I’m not being unreasonable here or unhelpful – this is about how we make people’s rights real in practice on the ground.”

The Tory leader believes “radical but practical” action is needed to tackle the drugs problem in Scotland.

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It comes after Scottish Labour’s Paul Sweeney said he plans to bring forward a Bill in the Scottish Parliament around the introduction of safe consumption rooms.

His legislation would scrap the Scottish Drugs Death Taskforce which Sweeney says “no longer commands the confidence of the public or those working in the sector”.

The Glasgow MSP proposes an independent Scottish Drug Death Council be set up to tackle the drugs death crisis that he said is “currently gripping Scotland”.

Speaking about his Bill, Ross said: “Scotland has the worst record in Europe for drug deaths. This is a national tragedy that ought to shame the SNP Government who have presided over the huge rise in numbers.

“There is no one silver bullet in the fight against drug and alcohol deaths but I firmly believe Right To Recovery can be a game-changer.

“That’s because it has been drafted with the help of those with lived experience of addiction, and it will tackle one of the biggest obstacles to recovery those with addictions face: the scarcity of treatment available.

“Today it moves another step closer to the statute book, when I formally submit the final proposal to Parliament.

“I would urge MSPs from across the Parliament to back Right To Recovery. The current approach to drug and alcohol addiction clearly isn’t working, so radical but common-sense action is required – and this Bill is that.

“The response to it from stakeholders – including charities, support groups, tenants’ associations and churches – was overwhelmingly positive at the consultation stage. Now it’s time for us politicians to get it enacted.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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