Right to Recovery Bill will get ‘fair hearing’, drugs policy minister vows

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Angela Constance said the drug death figures are ‘heart-breaking’ (Alamy/PA)
Angela Constance said the drug death figures are ‘heart-breaking’ (Alamy/PA)

Scotland’s drug policy minister has said she will give a “fair and sympathetic hearing” to Conservative plans for a Right to Recovery Bill for drug addicts.

Angela Constance said “further progress” is needed to prevent lives being lost from drug-related deaths.

Official figures show there were 1,330 drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2021 – a decrease of just nine, or 1%, from the previous year.

Political opponents have been urging the Scottish Government to back the Tories’ Bill, which would enshrine in law the right for everyone with an addiction problem to receive life-saving treatment.

The Bill will go before Parliament later this year.

Steve Wishart, a recovering drug addict who helped draft the Bill, told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Thursday that politicians need to put their political differences aside to save lives.

Ms Constance said: “I work with every political party that’s currently represented in the Scottish Parliament and have done so from the outset of the national mission.

“I’ve always said that I’ll give a fair and sympathetic hearing to any proposition that any opposition party brings forward.

“In terms of the Right to Recovery Bill, I do of course still need to see that Bill.

“I met with Mr (Tory leader Douglas) Ross prior to the parliamentary recess and he assured me that he was doing much work over the summer in the drafting of that Bill.”

She extended her “deep condolences” to everyone who has lost a loved one from a drug-related death.

Commenting on the latest drug death figures, she added: “These figures that are published today are heart-breaking but only serve to increase my resolve on behalf of the Scottish Government to do more and to go faster to make further progress.

Angela Constance, the Scottish minister for drug policy, said she would give ‘a fair and sympathetic hearing to any proposition that any opposition party brings forward’ (PA) (PA Wire)
Angela Constance, the Scottish minister for drug policy, said she would give ‘a fair and sympathetic hearing to any proposition that any opposition party brings forward’ (PA) (PA Wire)

“What we have seen for the first year since 2013 is a halt in the increase of drug deaths that we’ve seen in recent years.

“I am determined to use this as a real platform for change.

“There’s no doubt about it, in Scotland we continue to face a significant public health emergency and that requires us to continue to work at pace.”

The minister was speaking as she visited River Garden Auchincruive, near Ayr, to speak to residents and staff at the residential rehabilitation centre.

There she met Paul, who began using drugs at the age of 12 after growing up in care.

He joined River Garden two years ago, aged 47, and said the experience has been “transformational” and has given him “purpose and self-worth”.

Ms Constance also is meeting with families affected by drug deaths to hear what they believe should be done to prevent further fatalities.

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