The chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee has welcomed moves by the Scottish Conservatives to call for a joint conference on Scotland’s drug deaths crisis.
Perth and North Perthshire SNP MP Pete Wishart was responding to a letter sent by Annie Wells MSP to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for a joint summit between the UK and Scottish Government’s in 2020.
Mr Wishart, who chairs the SAC, was involved in their report into the deaths crisis published before parliament dissolved ahead of the general election in 2019.
In the report, which was written by a cross-party group of Scottish MPs, it was recommended the governments pull together as well as the transfer of some powers from Westminster to Holyrood.
Mr Wishart said: “It is encouraging that the Scottish Conservatives have got on board in the calls for a drugs summit to address Scotland’s drugs crisis.
“The SNP have long called for a summit between the UK and Scottish Governments and I now hope that the UK Government respond positively to these requests.
“A drugs summit between both the UK and Scottish Governments was also one of the many recommendations that the cross party Scottish Affairs Committee made in its far reaching report on problem drug use in Scotland.
“Our report followed the most extensive evidence based inquiry into problem drug use in Scotland ever undertaken, taking evidence from health professionals, those with lived experience, the Police, the Lord Advocate and ministers from the UK and Scottish Government.
“What our cross party committee recommended was that the big levers of change had to be pulled to match the scale of the crisis.
“This included ending the criminal justice approach to people with drugs problems, safe consumption rooms, decriminalisation of drugs for personal use, more investment in drugs services and tackling stigma. We also looked at the evidence from international examples.
“I hope that our report can lay the foundations for this summit and our bold recommendations can inform what is now required to address this crisis.
“Now is the time to make the big, brave decisions and effectively address the many problems we have.”
Ms Wells has called on both the UK and Scottish governments to place the issue at the top of their agendas.
She said: “The drug deaths summit must happen as soon as possible.
“Both of Scotland’s governments need to put this at the top of their agenda.
“I lost a neighbour, across Scotland we lost 1,187 people in 2018, and I heard from so many families who lost loved ones in 2019.
“So I’ve asked the Prime Minister to make the drug deaths crisis his top priority in Scotland.
“This year we should be focused on saving lives instead of getting caught up in politics and the usual constitutional blame game.
“The drug deaths summit can be the starting point for Scotland’s governments to work better together and for a renewed focus on improving treatment and rehabilitation services.”
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: “The number of drug deaths across the UK is extremely concerning, in particular the figures for Scotland, and every death is a tragedy.
“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, such widening the availability of naloxone to prevent overdose deaths.”