OPPONENTS of the SNP have demanded Nicola Sturgeon give an urgent statement on the record levels of drugs deaths in Scotland.
Statistics published on Friday showed that more than 1300 people died last year as a result of drugs – a 5 per cent rise from 2019 and the highest number since records began in 1996.
Angela Constance, the minister for drugs policy, said the figures were “heartbreaking” and Ms Sturgeon also apologised to families, saying she was sorry for their loss.
However both Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives have been highly critical of the SNP’s response, arguing there has been too much talk and not enough action.
Now both parties have demanded Ms Sturgeon make a statement about the issue in Holyrood, with Labour going so far as to say the First Minister must take “personal responsibility” for the rising death toll.
Anas Sarwar, leader of Scottish Labour, said Ms Sturgeon must now make tackling the crisis her political priority, and called for an update for MSPs on Tuesday following the First Minister’s coronavirus statement.
He said:: “On Tuesday, the First Minister will update MSPs on one of the public health crises facing Scotland.
“But last week’s drug death figures show that Covid is not the only health emergency haunting our country.
“Those statistics should shame Scotland – it should never have been allowed to get to this point. ”
He added that it was “not enough for the Government to express regret at these heartbreaking figures” and continued: “Every year we get devastating figures, every year they get worse and every year we hear regret from the Government.
“We have the same drug laws as the rest of the UK but three and a half times the rate of drugs deaths.
“Apologising or expressing regret just isn’t good enough.
“The First Minister should put all her political energy into solving this crisis – after 15 years in Government it is a test she must pass.
“And if she fails to make progress she should make way for someone who will.”
Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives have also called for an update on the drugs deaths on Tuesday with the party’s health spokeswoman Annie Wells saying the SNP was “out of touch” and had “no new ideas”.
She said: “On the day that drug deaths tragically increased for the seventh year in a row, SNP minister Angela Constance joined us at a memorial in Glasgow and somehow thought that people wanted to hear her speak about a Deacon Blue song.
“The SNP are out of touch with the needs of people on the frontline of this crisis. People in our communities don’t need more warm words and empty platitudes, they need action.
“On Tuesday, we hope the government will have the decency to explain why they are stalling on backing our Right to Recovery Bill proposal, which would guarantee everyone who needs addiction treatment can get it.”
The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.