Calls for action over Forth Valley and Scotland drug deaths crisis

A Falkirk councillor has demanded urgent action is taken to address the growing drug death crisis in Forth Valley and Scotland as a whole.
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Last week it was revealed the number of people who died as a result of drug abuse in Forth Valley reached its highest-ever level in 2019.

According to National Records of Scotland statistics, the region’s drug deaths increased from 72 people in 2018 to 75 the following – the highest figure in over a decade.

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The news coincided with the shocking revelation Scotland had the highest per capita drug deaths of any country in the developed world in 2018 – a crisis that worsened last year.

Calls have been made for action to be taken to halt the drug deaths crisis in Scotland. Picture: Sean Bell.Calls have been made for action to be taken to halt the drug deaths crisis in Scotland. Picture: Sean Bell.
Calls have been made for action to be taken to halt the drug deaths crisis in Scotland. Picture: Sean Bell.

In 2019, Scotland recorded 1264 drug-related deaths – a 6 per cent increase from the previous year.

Councillor Robert Bissett, Falkirk Labour Group leader, said: “The SNP Government is quick to cut vital services and blame others, but the buck stops with them.

“There has been a 720 per cent increase in drug deaths in Falkirk since 2009. That is completely unacceptable and requires radical action now.

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“This is a public health and human rights emergency, and behind the statistics are real people in our communities who have lost their lives to drugs, families that have been torn apart, and the risk that even more people who misuse drugs will die unless urgent steps are taken.”

In Central Scotland, drug deaths are now 246 per cent higher than they were in 2009.

Mark Griffin, Central Scotland Labour MSP, said: “The 2019 drug figures are truly devastating and the worst ever recorded.

“They represent a national public health emergency and an abject failure of leadership from the SNP Government.

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“Scotland already had the worst drug death rate in the world and the problems have deepened. Scotland’s drug deaths are now three-and-a-half times higher than the rest of the UK and 41 lives were lost in Falkirk alone last year.

“Each life lost is an avoidable tragedy and it is clear that greater action is required.”

Scotland’s public health minister, Joe FitzPatrick, resigned last week after failing to curb drug-related deaths, which have risen for the sixth consecutive year to an all-time high.

The calls for action come as it was revealed Nicola Sturgeon is set to meet with a Maddiston activist who is campaigning for a change in the law to allow the legal consumption of drugs.

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The First Minister is scheduled to hold talks with Peter Krykant on January 7 – five days before she chairs a meeting of the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce for the first time.

The pair will discuss the prospect of Scotland making legal history by defying Westminster to open an Overdose Prevention Centre (OPC) north of the border.

Mr Krykant was charged by police in October over a drug consumption van he has been operating in Glasgow.

He has been working with injecting users in the city since September.

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Mr Krykant, who was charged under the Misuse of Drugs Act, believes current laws force people to inject in squalid and dangerous conditions in alleyways, closes and waste ground.

The UK Government has previously rejected calls for such facilities to be legalised.

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