THE UK Government policing minister who oversees drugs policy has been accused of “puerile sound bite politics” after attacking the SNP for not signing up to an initiative to tackle drug use.
Kit Malthouse shared an article in the Mail which stated that the SNP turned down the chance to take part in Project ADDER three times, adding: “We can only beat this dreadful crisis together.”
It comes as Scotland recorded the largest number of drug-related deaths since records began, with 1339 lives lost in 2020.
The UK Government ADDER initiative stands for “Addiction, Diversion, Disruption, Enforcement and Recovery” and brings together local authorities, police and health services. So far the scheme has been rolled out to 13 regions of England and Wales.
The Scottish Government recently pledged £250 million over the next five years to tackle the drug death crisis, with partnerships like the Positive Outcomes Project already set up between the police and local health authorities with a focus on helping reduce drug dependence and offending levels.
SNP MP Ronnie Cowan, who has been vocal on the need for drug law reform at Westminster, hit back Malthouse for sharing the piece criticising his party’s reluctance to join ADDER.
“There is so much @kitmalthouse could be doing and yet he resorts to this puerile sound byte politics,” the Inverclyde representative said. “Hand the authority to the health department and walk away. That’s the best thing he could do. Maybe then we could have a grown up discussion. Meanwhile people are dying.”
Malthouse has previously come under fire for his approach to Scotland’s drug crisis. In March 2020 it emerged that he had left the UK’s own drug summit half way through the event, missing key speeches from drug experts and ministers from Ireland and Wales.
“A wealth of international experts were invited and then ignored,” said Jardine Simpson, chief executive of the Scottish Recovery Consortium. “The event was simply an exercise in demonstrating the UK Government is intractable – and in my view irrational – in sticking to its policy approach around addiction.”
Malthouse and other UK Government have also repeatedly turned down Scottish efforts to set up safe drug consumption rooms.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The minister for drugs policy has already written to the Presiding Officer making clear that she stands ready to respond to any parliamentary or committee requests in relation to drug deaths.
“The parliamentary agenda is a matter for parliament’s cross-party business bureau to decide and should they agree a time for a statement, the minister will be available to outline what the Scottish Government is doing to tackle this crisis.”