A former police officer has been appointed to head up Dundee’s fight against alcohol and drug addiction after the previous leader quit amid a lack of progress.
John Wyllie, who was formerly the Detective Chief Inspector for Public Protection in Tayside, will take on the role of chair of the Dundee Alcohol & Drugs Partnership (ADP).
The partnership works to prevent substance misuse and is one of the key bodies in the fight to reduce Dundee’s hugely disproportionate drug deaths.
It contains experts from NHS Tayside, Dundee City Council, Police Scotland and the voluntary sector.
Mr Wyllie replaces Simon Little, whose decision to stand down in the summer left many in the partnership taken aback.
Mr Little has not spoken publicly on his reasons but speaking at the time, Labour MSP Michael Marra, said the resignation was evidence that progress has been too slow.
New leader cites collaboration as key
Mr Wyllie has worked across a wide range of functions including public protection, international policing, specialist crime, training, law reform, organised crime and crime strategy.
The partnership hopes his expertise and experience can speed up reforms while the new independent chief believes goodwill and cooperation will be critical.
He said: “I look forward to working in a positive, practical and meaningful way with all members of the ADP and anyone else who can assist.
“I know that the task of tackling the harm caused by alcohol and drugs is complex and challenging but I absolutely do think that by continuing to work together, with good will, determination and a clear focus that we will make things better for the people and communities of Dundee.”
Drug deaths fall but issue remains serious
The number of drug deaths recorded in Dundee dropped for the second year running this year.
Deaths in the city fell from 57 to 52 with a total of 1,330 people dying from drug use across Scotland last year – down from 1,339 in 2020.
Despite the drop, Scotland’s drug death rate remains the worst in Europe and Dundee is second only to Glasgow for fatalities.
Councillor John Alexander, city council leader and chair of the Dundee Partnership, said: “This is a crucial appointment, as we look to make progress on the hard work that has been ongoing over the last few years to reduce the terrible toll that alcohol and drugs have taken on Dundee people, families and communities.
“I look forward to the publication of the ADP’s Strategic Framework and Delivery Plan for Drug and Alcohol Recovery, which will provide us with a roadmap to continue our efforts over the next five years.
“We have no illusions about the size of the task and our local partnerships are striving every day to make Dundee a City of Recovery.
“John will bring a strong skillset to the table and will have a significant contribution to make.”
Christina Cooper, chief executive officer of Dundee Volunteer and Voluntary Action, said Mr Wyllie is a strong choice.
She said: “His wealth of experience in practice and policy – and proven track record of influencing change will be a great asset to the ADP.
“With his distinguished career history to date, I am confident John will lead the partnership and focus it on strategic priorities, overseeing the business and setting high governance standards.”
‘Highly respected’ officer
Chief Superintendent Phil Davison, Divisional Commander for Tayside and deputy chair of the Public Protection Chief Officer Group meanwhile said Mr Wyllie was a “highly respected” officer who understands the complex social issues in Tayside.
He said the force is looking forward to working with him to improve community safety and wellbeing in Dundee.