More than 1,000 babies born dependent on substances in Scotland since 2017

More than 1,100 babies who are dependent on substances have been born since 2017 in Scotland, data shows.

It has prompted calls for investment in supporting babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) from the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

NAS is when children show signs of addictions, due to the mother's use of legal, or illegal, substances during pregnancy.

Symptoms of NAS, which is often the result of blood being passed from the mother to the foetus during pregnancy, includes trembling, blotchy skin and hyperactivity,

The Scottish Liberal Democrats obtained the data through a freedom of information request, that showed 1,123 babies have been born with the condition in the last five years in Scotland, with a total of 147 such births in 2022/2023 to date.

That's down from 209 the year before, while 161 were recorded in 2020/2021, 164 in 2019/20, 199 in 2018/19 and 243 in 2017/18.

Some 609 NAS cases were recorded by NHS Lothian, followed by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde with 183, and NHS Grampian with 156.

Ministers must take more action, according to the party's leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, who adds the Scottish Drug Death Taskforce's report noted funding to be "woefully inadequate" in the area.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: "These figures are utterly heartbreaking. There is perhaps no worse possible start in life for a newborn baby.

"[Last] year, independent experts described the government's current funding for drugs and alcohol as woefully inadequate for this level of public emergency.

"Years of underfunding saw vulnerable local facilities shut their doors and critical expertise lost.

"Nicola Sturgeon has admitted her government wasn't paying attention while Scotland's situation became many times worse than anywhere else in Europe.

"It is time for radical action, not just to help people struggling with drug misuse today, but for future generations too.

"That means investing in local services which are best placed to intervene to stop lives from being lost and new lives starting dependent on substances.

"Drug misuse should always be treated as a health issue, not a criminal justice matter. Anything else will condemn many more children to be born into these awful circumstances."

The Scottish government has earmarked £250m to support its national scheme on tackling drug misuse, which will be spent on increasing and improving access to treatment and recovery services.

A Scottish government spokesperson said: "No newborn baby should be dependent on substances, and we are increasing investment in local services and providing support to women and families as part of our national mission to tackle the drug death emergency.

"We are funding a national specialist residential family service run by the charity and housing association Phoenix Futures in Saltcoats, North Ayrshire, to support single parents or couples along with their children.

"The service, which opened in November, will also support women through their pregnancy and into motherhood.

"We are also committed to preventing the harm caused by alcohol consumption during pregnancy, of which there is no safe level, and to supporting those impacted by foetal alcohol spectrum disorder."