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EXCLUSIVE: Experts and charities give ‘overwhelming’ support to Tory drug recovery policy

Douglas Ross.

Experts and charities have overwhelmingly backed the Scottish Conservatives’ Right to Recovery Bill.

The legislation, which the Tories now hope to secure cross-party support for at Holyrood, would enshrine in law a right to life-saving treatment for those struggling with addiction.

The Conservatives will publish responses to a consultation of charity organisations and experts later on Friday.

But we can reveal that of 194 responses received by the party, nearly two-thirds gave the policy their full backing.

In total, just over 77% said they either partially or fully support it.

These include the likes of homeless charities Cyrenians and Simon Community Scotland, the Scottish Tenants Organisation, Recovery Enterprises Scotland, addiction experts and faith groups.

Some 124 respondents described themselves as “fully supportive” of the proposals, while a further 26 said they were “partially supportive”.

A ‘positive course’ of action

Writing exclusively for us, Douglas Ross said rather than “hoping beyond hope” that Scotland’s drug deaths crisis goes away, his Bill could provide “a positive course to ramp up treatment for those who need it”.

“There were 1,339 drug-related deaths registered across Scotland in 2020, the largest number since records began in 1996,” the Scottish Conservative leader said.

“At the shameful heart of that, Dundee is often labelled the drug deaths capital of Europe.

“But the real shame is that nothing ever changes for people or the families of those who are torn apart by the lethal scourge of drugs.”

Plunging accessibility to treatment

Mr Ross said drug deaths have almost tripled during Nicola Sturgeon’s time as first minister and that alcohol and drug partnership funding has been cut in real terms for six years.

“As the death toll rises year on year, so plunges the accessibility of rehabilitation and addiction counselling,” he said.

The Scottish Conservative leader described his Bill as a “landmark piece of legislation which is informed not just by politicians at Holyrood but by experts who deal with addiction in all its forms”.

But he also took aim at the Scottish Government as he claimed it has not done enough to tackle to the drug deaths crisis.

Minister for Drug Policy Angela Constance

He said: “The new drugs minister Angela Constance focuses on drug medication assisted treatment standards, which are a step in the right direction but do not give people with addiction any enforceable rights.

“After 15 years of failure, it is not enough.”

The Scottish Conservatives will now lodge a formal proposal to get signatures from MSPs of all parties in the hopes of bringing the Bill forward at Parliament.

Campaigners have raised concerns

Some drug policy campaigners, including influential activist Peter Krykant, have voiced concerns that the Right to Recovery Bill could do more harm than good.

They claim the policy is dismissive of “harm reduction” measures, such as methadone, and could see money taken away from services instead of supporting them.

Nicola Sturgeon says she has an “open mind” about a legal right to recovery treatment.

Speaking last month as it was reported suspected drug deaths fell by 8% last year, Angela Constance said the government is working to improve treatment standards and increase residential rehabilitation spaces.

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