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Douglas Ross hails SNP candidates’ backing for Right to Recovery Bill

Douglas Ross has hailed the news that all three SNP leadership candidates have backed his landmark Right to Recovery Bill as “a huge step forward” in the fight against Scotland’s drugs-death crisis.

When asked by Bauer Radio about their stance on the Scottish Conservative leader’s Member’s Bill – which is designed to tackle the national emergency – Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan all indicated they would support it.

The proposed legislation, which is due to be debated in parliament this year, would enshrine in law the right of everyone with addiction problems to receive the treatment they need, and has the backing of experts in the field.

The three would-be First Ministers were questioned by Bauer in the wake of criticism from Douglas Ross last week that Scotland’s drugs-death crisis had scarcely been mentioned during the SNP leadership campaign.

He had urged them to come off the fence and back his bill, after Nicola Sturgeon and SNP drugs minister Angela Constance had previously made supportive noises without ever committing to it.

Now he has urged whoever wins the race to become First Minister to stay true to their word, so that the “game-changer” bill can become law as soon as possible.

 

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “I’m delighted that the three candidates to lead the SNP have finally given their backing to Right to Recovery.

“The bill can be a game-changer in tackling Scotland’s shameful record on drugs deaths and it’s a huge step forward that all of those vying to become First Minister appear to support it.

“I will be ensuring that whoever wins this race stays true to their word and that there is no backtracking once they are in Bute House.

“Right to Recovery already had sufficient cross-party support to come before parliament and – with SNP backing – getting it on the stature book would be a formality.

“There is no time for dithering. This bill commands the support of experts in the field of addiction and the principle behind it is unarguable: namely, that everyone in Scotland should be entitled, by law, to receive the treatment they need.

“This is a national emergency. Scotland has the worst rate of drug-related fatalities in Europe by a country mile, and just this week we learned that the number of suspected drugs deaths in the last quarter of 2022 had jumped again.

“We must act now to reduce this shocking death toll. The Right to Recovery Bill will make a huge difference in that fight.”  

 

 

Notes

The Bauer story can be seen here: https://planetradio.co.uk/clyde/local/news/snp-leadership-your-questions-answered/

 

Asked if she backed Right to Recovery, Kate Forbes said: “Yes, I'm not averse to that approach. But a legal right needs to be backed up with provision. It's the provision that matters, followed by a legal right to access that provision. And the provision requires funding. So, yes, I think people should have the right to access rehab, if that is the right kind of support for them.”

Humza Yousaf said: “I do think it's an issue that unites most of the parliament. I don't think it's unreasonable for the government to say we'll wait to see the detail. But I think the principle behind the bill is sound.”

Asked, if she supported the bill, Ash Regan said: “I'd have to look at the detail, but in principle, yes, it sounds like a good idea.”

The drug deaths rate in Scotland is nearly five times higher than the rate down south. In England and Wales there were 3,060 drug deaths identified as drug misuse, or 53.2 deaths per million people, in 2021. In Scotland, there were 1,330 drug misuse deaths, which equates to a death rate per million of 243. This means the death rate in Scotland is 4.6 times higher compared to England and Wales. (Drug related deaths in Scotland 2021, 28 July 2022, linkDeaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales 2021, 3 August 2022, link).

Drug deaths are much higher in Scotland than in any other European country. Scotland had a drug-death rate of 327 per million population aged 15-64 in 2020. This was much higher than the rates reported for any other country, the next largest being 85 per million for Norway. (National Records of Scotland, Drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2021, 28 July 2022, link).

The principle which underlies the Scottish Conservatives’ Right to Recovery Bill is to ensure that people who are addicted to drugs (and/or alcohol) are able to access the necessary addiction treatment they require.

 

In order to achieve this, the proposed bill, which is due to come before parliament later this year, will enshrine the right to necessary addiction treatment in Scots Law. It would place an obligation on NHS health boards, Scottish Ministers and others, as appropriate, to provide treatment and set up reporting arrangements so that the quality and access of treatment provided can be monitored and reported to the Scottish Parliament. This will ensure that individuals may access a preferred treatment option unless it is deemed to be harmful by a medical professional.

Drugs minister Angela Constance said she would give Right to Recovery “a fair and sympathetic hearing” when asked about it in an interview on BBC Good Morning Scotland on May 30, 2022. She said: “In terms of the proposition put forward by Douglas Ross and his colleagues, I’ve always said it would be given a fair and sympathetic hearing.”

Suspected drug deaths increased by 26% in the most recent quarter. There were 295 suspected drug deaths recorded over October to December 2022, 26% (60) higher than between July to September 2022 (235)(Suspected drug deaths in Scotland: October to December 2022, 14 March 2023, link).