Nicola Sturgeon slams 'interpretation' of her vaccine targets
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Scotland recorded 1,339 in 2020, up 75 from 2019’s 1,264, meaning the country is home to the highest drug death rate in Europe. The First Minister has said the record high tally was “unacceptable” and “shameful”, but decried a lack of powers to resolve the issue.
Data from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) showed 2020 had the highest number of drug-related deaths in the country since records began in 1996.
Two-thirds (63 percent) of the deaths in 2020 were of people aged between 35 and 54, NRS data showed.
After adjusting for age, men were 2.7 times as likely to have a drug-related death than women.
The data also showed people living in the most deprived areas of Scotland were 18 times more likely to die from a drug-related condition than those in the least deprived areas.
Glasgow was found to be the worst area for people struggling with addiction, with 291 people dying in the city last year.
Opioids remained the number one cause of drug-related death in Scotland in 2020, and were involved in 1,192 of the 1,339 deaths.
The drug death rate in Scotland is more than three and a half times higher than the rest of the UK.
Ms Sturgeon called the figures “unacceptable”, and said every life lost to drugs is a “human tragedy”.
She then said: “The Scottish Government does not shirk the responsibility and we are determined to make changes that will save lives.
“These 2020 figures (though no less shameful because of it) predate actions set out at the start of the year: We now have a dedicated drugs minister in Angela Constance, a substantial funding commitment and action underway to ensure faster access to community support, treatment and rehab.
“We will also continue to argue for reform of drugs law, which is not currently within our power.
“Today, my thoughts are with every family who has lost a loved one – I am sorry for the loss you have suffered.
“However, I know that from the Scottish Government what is required isn’t words, but action to prevent people dying, and that is what we are determined to deliver.”
Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservatives leader, hit back at the First Minister’s response who said Ms Sturgeon had made “pitiful excuses”.
He said on Twitter: “You’ve had 14 years. Drug deaths have hit new records every year you’ve been First Minister.
“These pitiful excuses about ‘predating actions’ are a disgrace.
“Stop the political spin with these awful figures and take the necessary drastic action.”
Mr Ross also called on the First Minister to support the Scottish Tories ‘Right to Recovery Bill’, which would give people the right to the addiction treatment they need, including a residential rehabilitation place, and has the backing of seven drug campaign organisations.
Annemarie Ward, chief executive of the charity Faces and Voices of Recovery Scotland, backed the “Right to Recovery” bill and said there was little faith that the SNP would fix the issue.
She told The Telegraph: “Any amount of deaths is absolutely devastating for the families who have lost loved ones, but for this to continue year on year is an absolute scandal, it’s a tragedy, and it’s Scotland’s shame.
“To use Glasgow as a microcosm, there’s only 18 beds and over 100,000 people with alcohol and drug problems. So your chances of getting into rehab are almost one in 6,000.
“What we have here is a situation where we’ve got the same leadership presiding over a catastrophic tragedy, who keep throwing the same failing solutions at it over and over again.
“None of these turkeys are going to vote for Christmas, so we need the law to change, new leadership and new solutions.”
Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, also blasted Ms Sturgeon over the “devastating figures”,
She said every death is “a tragedy that has left loved ones without a parent, sibling, child, friend or neighbour”.
She then added: “This shameful crisis is entirely of the SNP’s making, and no desperate attempt at spin by the First Minister can hide that fact.
“For far too long the SNP has taken its eye off the ball as it obsesses over independence, and these upsetting figures must now serve as an urgent reminder for the government to focus on the devolved public health and justice systems it controls.”
In the lead up to the Holyrood elections in May, Ms Sturgeon admitted the SNP had taken its “eye off the ball” on tackling the drugs crisis.
The Scottish Government has pledged to invest £250m in addressing the “emergency” over the next five years, but has previously slashed funding for rehabilitation services and beds.
The Scottish Greens, in talks with the SNP about a power-sharing deal, suggested the statistics made the case for legalisation of drugs, claiming current policies across the UK had “demonstrably failed”.
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