Gov­ern­ment pressed on drug deaths cri­sis sum­mit

Evening Times - - NEWS - BY NIALL CHRISTIE

TOP Tory min­is­ters in West­min­ster have been urged to travel to Glas­gow this year to take part in a sum­mit on Scot­land’s drugs death cri­sis.

Home Sec­re­tary Priti Pa­tel, along with Scot­tish Sec­re­tary Alis­ter Jack and Health and So­cial Care Sec­re­tary Matt Han­cock, have been in­vited to show their “com­mit­ment to tack­ling the is­sue” by at­tend­ing a cri­sis meet­ing in the city later this year.

In a let­ter sent yes­ter­day morn­ing, Scot­tish Pub­lic Health Min­is­ter Joe Fitz­Patrick asked the trio to con­firm their at­ten­dance at the event, which cur­rently has cross-party sup­port north of the Bor­der.

Shock­ing fig­ures re­leased by Po­lice Scot­land last week re­vealed 2019 is set to sur­pass 2018 in the num­ber of drug deaths across Scot­land.

Last year, sta­tis­tics showed that a record

280 peo­ple had died in Glas­gow and 1187 across Scot­land.

How­ever, the rate of deaths in Scot­land through the first half of 2019 sug­gest

2018’s to­tal could be topped, with a to­tal of

1368 pre­dicted if the prob­lem per­sists, with more than 300 deaths in Glas­gow.

This pa­per has re­peat­edly called on both gov­ern­ments and the coun­cil to come to­gether in Glas­gow for an emer­gency sum­mit.

Now, Fitz­Patrick has called for the cab­i­net mem­bers to travel to Glas­gow to help ad­dress the prob­lem.

In his let­ter to the Home Sec­re­tary, he wrote: “We have been work­ing with Glas­gow drug and al­co­hol ser­vices for some time to or­gan­ise a sum­mit in Glas­gow on this is­sue that I will be host­ing.

“There is cross-party sup­port in Scot­land for this sum­mit which will be at­tended by gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives, lo­cal author­i­ties and the chair of Scot­land’s drug deaths task­force, and which will en­sure the voices of those with ex­pe­ri­ence of us­ing drugs, and their fam­i­lies, are also heard.

“I would like to in­vite you, Matt Han­cock and Alis­ter Jack to at­tend the sum­mit to demon­strate our shared com­mit­ment to tackle this is­sue.

“I look for­ward to hear­ing from you on how we might en­gage im­me­di­ately on this mat­ter in or­der to make progress as well as con­fir­ma­tion that you will join me at the forth­com­ing drugs sum­mit in Glas­gow.”

The call comes days af­ter Tory

MSP An­nie Wells urged Boris John­son to make the drug death cri­sis his num­ber one pri­or­ity in Scot­land this year.

Fol­low­ing the let­ter, Wells, who is the Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives’ pub­lic health spokes­woman, said she is will­ing to con­sider the de­crim­i­nal­i­sa­tion of drugs and the in­tro­duc­tion of safe con­sump­tion rooms.

In his let­ter to the Home Sec­re­tary, Scot­land’s Pub­lic Health Min­is­ter also pleaded for le­gal changes to be made to al­low for rad­i­cal pro­pos­als to be taken for­ward.

In re­sponse, the Home Of­fice called the death numbers “ex­tremely con­cern­ing”, but did not re­spond to ques­tions on whether min­is­ters would at­tend a sum­mit.

A spokesper­son added: “We will con­tinue to work with the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to tackle drug mis­use and harm and sus­tain our sup­port for pro­grammes which re­duce the health-re­lated harms of drugs.”

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has urged Home Sec­re­tary Priti Pa­tel to come to Glas­gow

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