Legislation giving drug users a right to residential rehab treatment could be fast-tracked through Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon has indicated.
The First Minister said she will “look with an open mind” at a draft Bill the Scottish Conservatives plan to publish next week.
Confronted by Tory leader Douglas Ross with a “shocking” case of a man who has been trying to get into a rehabilitation centre for two years, Ms Sturgeon accepted the Scottish Government has “failed in aspects of drugs policy”.
Speaking during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood on Thursday, she conceded the “Government has much, much more to do” as she vowed to look at the case raised by Mr Ross.
The Tory leader said the man – who he did not name – had been abused as a child and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Claiming the “system is broken”, Mr Ross said the man “has been in the system in Glasgow for four years, without a care plan”.
He added: “He has been trying to get into rehab for two years but keeps hearing he is ‘not appropriate’ for rehab.
“This man is at death’s door. Today he is having a mental health assessment. Just another hoop he has to jump through because he wants to get better.
“His only hope it seems is private rehab because of a charity’s generosity.
“This individual case is shocking. But it is being repeated all over our country.”
He called for “real action” to tackle Scotland’s drugs death crisis, which claimed 1,264 lives in 2019.
Mr Ross demanded: “We do have to tackle this issue now. Scotland’s drugs deaths are the highest in Europe and they are only going to get worse in the next few years if nothing is done.”
He recalled how Holyrood had passed legislation at speed to deal with the Covid pandemic, and added: “We need the exact same urgency to deal with Scotland’s drug deaths crisis.”
Mr Ross said the Conservatives will publish proposals for a Right to Recovery Bill before Parliament starts its summer recess next week.
Such a Bill will “give people a right in law to the treatment they need”, he insisted, as he challenged the First Minister to “back our Bill to give everyone a legal right to recovery”.
Ms Sturgeon responded: “I will look with an open mind at any proposals that are brought forward, including proposals for legislation.
“Douglas Ross has said he hasn’t yet published the draft Bill, when that draft Bill is published we will look at that.
“If the view was across this chamber that there was sufficient consensus to bring legislation forward quickly and put it through in an accelerated timescale, we will look at that as well.”
But the First Minister also insisted “many of the key strands of what would be in a Right to Recovery Bill are all things that are being taken forward”.
She stressed the need to “be cautious” about the time it could take to pass any new law.
But the First Minister was clear on her determination to tackle Scotland’s drugs problem.
She told MSPs that “we are not yet at the place we want to be in terms of drug treatment and services generally and in terms of drug rehabilitation services in particular”.
She added that ministers have “not yet brought forward a package of policies that are sufficient to tackle the severity of the challenge we face”.
But she said: “There are few things the Government is more serious about doing, we are keen and open to work across the chamber in so far as that is possible.”