The UK government has ignored calls to engage with Scotland’s drugs death task-force, the public health minister has said.
Dundee West MSP Joe FitzPatrick said he was open to cross-border working to tackle the the drugs death crisis.
Mr FitzPatrick said he did not want to make a constitutional argument of the issue but noted Home Secretary Priti Patel had not responded to either of two letters he sent over the summer recess.
He said: “The deaths caused by substance abuse are avoidable. This government, parliament and the nation needs to work together to address this emergency.
“We will continue to press the UK government to work with us on those vital issues to deliver change.
“We know opiate replacement therapies save lives, reduce crime and harm.”
He was speaking as he announced further details of the newly-formed Scottish Drug Taskforce, in which people with “lived experience” of addiction would be at the forefront.
The taskforce is to meet for the first time later this month, on September 17.
It will be chaired by Professor Catriona Matheson, with representatives from Police Scotland, the Crown Office, Royal College of General Practice, Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Social work Officer.
David Liddell, CEO of Scottish Drugs Forum, said: “We welcome the minister’s statement on the details of the drug deaths task force.
“What we hope will emerge from their work is clear direction on how to impact on the tragic and escalating rates of preventable drug overdose deaths.
“The key aims should be to follow the evidence of what works. We need to increase by at least 50% the number of people in drug treatment.
“Also, there is a need to improve access to treatment – people are currently waiting months for access to opioid substitution therapy. As recommended elsewhere, services need to eliminate unplanned discharges – too many people fall out of services, too often through in-flexible or punitive practice.
“There is a general need to improve quality – potentially up to 50% of people receiving opioid substitution therapy are on sub-optimal doses.
“These issues are long standing and complex. Swift and large scale action is required.”
In 2018 alone, 1,187 people died of drug induced death, 66 of those in Dundee.
Dundee East MSP Shona Robison called for Dundee to be at the forefront of treatment initiatives.
She said: “The Dundee Drug Commission called for the full integration of substance abuse and mental health services and support.
“I call for Dundee to be at the forefront of this potentially lifesaving dual diagnostic approach as it is implemented.”
Dundee-based Labour MSP Jenny Marra had earlier raised the findings of the Dundee Drugs Commission with the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, asking how the city’s situation can be improved.
She said: “The character of Dundee’s drugs problem is different from that in the rest of Scotland, in that more young people are tragically dying there, poly drug use is far more common, and the people who die are more likely to have lived in poverty.
“The report was scathing about the national health service drugs service. It is isolated, unaccountable, maverick, punitive and wilfully ignores national and regional best practice. That service is directly under the government’s control.”
Ms Sturgeon said the Drugs Commission report is being examined and will feed into wider strategies. Extra funding has already been announced, she added.
The Home Office was approached for comment.