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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
22 August 2023
Humza Yousaf must back Right to Recovery Bill, says Douglas Ross

Scotland has the worst drug death rate in Europe

Humza Yousaf must back Right to Recovery Bill, says Douglas Ross

Humza Yousaf’s commitment to a Right to Recovery Bill would show he is serious about tackling Scotland’s concerning drug death rate, Douglas Ross has said. 

The leader of the Scottish Conservative made the comments ahead of National Records of Scotland’s publication of the annual drug mortality figures for 2022. 

The bill was first proposed by Ross in 2021, ahead of the Holyrood election. It would ensure the right of those struggling with addiction to access their preferred treatment method unless it was to be ruled harmful by a clinician. 

The figures for 2021 reported 1,330 drug-related deaths in Scotland – about 245 deaths per million people – 3.8 times higher than the next worst European nation, Norway, and almost five times higher than England and Wales.  

The First Minister indicated he would support Ross’ bill during the SNP leadership election and reiterated his intention to support it during an Edinburgh Fringe appearance. 

Speaking to broadcaster Iain Dale, he said: “I have said to him [Ross] on day one, and I had him in my office, whenever he introduces the Right to Recovery Bill let’s try to see if we can work on that in as an open and constructive of a manner as possible.” 

Last month, the Scottish Government published a paper on drug law reform, urging the UK to decriminalise all drugs for personal supply. The proposals were knocked back within hours by the UK Government.  

Ross said: “It’s impossible to overstate the scale of Scotland’s drug death crisis – this is truly a national emergency. The fatality rate is so much worse here than in the rest of Europe, and the rest of the UK, that it demands the full attention of the Scottish Government after years of shameful neglect by the SNP. 

“Humza Yousaf must learn from Nicola Sturgeon’s mistakes and finally treat this issue as a top priority to massively reduce the number of Scottish families enduring needless, heart-breaking loss. 

“I would hope – and expect – to see a substantial fall on last year’s appalling total but, even if this is the case, Scotland will likely continue to be an appalling outlier for the continent.  

“One of the biggest issues facing those with addiction problems is accessing treatment. That’s why the Right to Recovery Bill I’m taking through Parliament is crucial – as it would enshrine in law the right of everyone to receive the potentially life-saving treatment they need – and why it is backed by experts, charities and those with lived experience. 

“Humza Yousaf made encouraging noises about supporting the Bill during the SNP leadership election but has been quiet since. Worryingly, he appears to be advocating the decriminalisation of drugs instead. 

“We need the SNP to stop dithering and get full square behind the Right to Recovery Bill. Tackling Scotland’s drugs deaths shame must finally be a top priority for Humza Yousaf and his Government.” 

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