Parliament draws a line under Scotland’s drug strategy past as Minister clarifies national mission

22nd March 2020

Scotland’s Drug Policy Minister Angela Constance led a debate in The Parliament on 18 March proposing that the Parliament “recognises that almost 3,400 people in Scotland have lost their lives to drug misuse in the last three years; believes that this is … a mark of shame on the nation; notes the …Government’s proposal to lead a national mission to reduce drug deaths and harms; agree that this is a public health emergency requiring partnership working and concerted action at all levels of public life, and welcomes the announcement of significant increased funding … to be invested in a range of areas that will have the biggest impact in getting individuals into treatment and keeping them alive.”

During her speech in support of the motion Ms Constance confirmed that the opinions and experience of people with a drug problem will be integral to decision-making and that a new Ministerial Implementation Group will be established by Government ‘which will bring together relevant ministers from portfolios such as mental health, housing, justice, and children and families, alongside senior representatives from organisations that deliver our strategies and services.’

Treatment targets

The Minister also said that she was “working urgently to establish relevant treatment targets that will show the scale of our ambition.” She described an inclusive process and promised to involve people with living experience of problem drug use as well as frontline staff and ‘our trusted third sector partners’.

Treatment standards

The Minister confirmed that the new Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Standards will be published in May this year and announced that they are to be ‘fully embedded across the country by April 2022.

How will extra spending be made?

The Minister confirmed that information on how Alcohol and Drug Partnerships have spent extra budget allocation for 2020-21 will be published week commencing 22 March.

Consensus around new policy perspective?

In summing up the debate, The Minister stressed that she was keen to establish and maintain a consensus and “ensure that the work that we do on drugs policy is joined at the hip with the work that we do on mental health, housing, homelessness, adverse childhood experiences, justice and, of course, poverty and inequality”  None of us,” she said, “should forget the impact of poverty and inequality.”

It summarised a debate which marked a clear shift in policy. In this spirit, James Kelly MSP acknowledged that as Scottish Labour’s justice spokesperson in 2009, he had endorsed and supported the Road to Recovery strategy that was introduced by the SNP Government.  “Sadly,” he reflected, ”that approach failed.”

Click here to read the full transcript of the debate.