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Scottish Conservatives demand First Minister answers on drug deaths

The Scottish Conservatives have criticised Nicola Sturgeon for being “absent” from the SNP Government’s response to the drug deaths crisis after the latest shocking statistics were revealed on Friday.

The Presiding Officer has agreed to opposition requests for a ministerial statement tomorrow (Tuesday) but the Scottish Conservatives have demanded that Nicola Sturgeon leads for the government, given the gravity of the crisis.

The SNP currently plans to have Angela Constance deliver the statement.

Friday’s figures show that drug deaths have more than doubled since Nicola Sturgeon became First Minister in 2014.

More than 10,000 people (10,663) have now lost their lives to drugs since the SNP Government came to power in 2007.

The Scottish Conservatives are pushing for a Right to Recovery Bill to guarantee that people can access treatment immediately.

The Bill, developed with recovery and treatment experts, would enshrine in law that everyone can access the treatment they need, including a residential rehabilitation place.

Seven frontline organisations have now backed the Bill, developed with FAVOR Scotland and Shelter’s Time for Change project. It reportedly has the private backing of some SNP MSPs.

Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross said: “While it’s right that we have an urgent statement on the drug deaths crisis, given the scale of this tragedy, the First Minister has to answer directly for her government’s fatal inaction and apparent failure to save lives.

“When a crisis reaches the level of being Scotland’s shame, hiding is not an option.

“Nicola Sturgeon has been absent from the government’s response so far, despite the drug death crisis spiralling entirely during her time as First Minister.

“Left to carry the can, Angela Constance has dodged scrutiny, claiming she ‘can’t speak about past mistakes’. She has irritated campaigners by turning up to a drug death memorial in Glasgow and speaking about a Deacon Blue song, instead of offering solutions.

“In the face of deaths peaking to a shocking new rate that is nearly four times worse than anywhere else in Europe, the public expects action, not more of the same weak responses and warm words.

“The First Minister must take responsibility. This crisis requires decisive leadership and bold plans, such as the Right to Recovery Bill we have proposed that would guarantee everyone gets the treatment they need.

“We will be pushing for a straight answer from Nicola Sturgeon to explain why the government won’t back our Bill, especially when it is supported by so many frontline organisations, experts and, reportedly, even some of her own MSPs.”

Notes

The Right to Recovery Bill proposal is here: https://www.scottishconservatives.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Right-to-Recovery.pdf