UK and Scottish ministers face grilling over drug deaths
Both Scottish and UK ministers will be quizzed on drug deaths by MSPs next week as three committees team up to discuss the issue.
The UK’s policing minister Kit Malthouse is to appear before members of the criminal justice, health, and social security committees on Tuesday 1 February.
Scotland’s drugs minister Angela Constance will then answer questions on Wednesday 2 February, as will new chair of the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce, David Strang.
Drug deaths in Scotland reached record levels in 2020, with 1,339 people losing their lives.
The Scottish Government has launched a “national mission” to tackle the problem, including the creation of the taskforce.
However, it came under earlier this month after the original chair and vice-chair of the taskforce stepped down.
They said this was due to pressure by the government to publish findings by the summer, which they warned would result in a “rushed job”.
Strang was appointed as the new chair of the taskforce last week.
Audrey Nicoll, the convener of Holyrood’s criminal justice committee who will chair both sessions, said: “Addressing this drugs crisis is a priority for our committees. We want to support the individuals and families affected, as well as the agencies who work with them and the Government in taking the right actions to reduce drug deaths and tackle the misuse of drugs.
“I hope these sessions allow us to see some progress in this area, perhaps finding consensus and focus on what more can be done.”
The number of suspected drug deaths in the first nine months of 2021 indicated a slight fall, though total deaths were still anticipated to be over 1,000.
The total number of deaths last year will not be confirmed until the National Records of Scotland publishes its annual statistics in July.