Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is facing calls to resign after the latest figures revealed a record high number of drug deaths in the nation which continues to possess the worst drug death rate in Europe.
There were 1,339 drug-related deaths registered in the country last year, up 5 per cent from 2019, with the figure rising each year since 2013 – the year before Ms Sturgeon took office.
93 per cent of drug-related deaths record last year were as a result of accidental overdoses, 4 per cent were considered deliberate self-poisoning, 1 per cent were a result of long-term drug abuse with 2 per cent classed as undetermined.
Glasgow was found to be the worst affected area for those struggling with drug addiction, with opioids remaining the number one cause of drug-related deaths in Scotland last year.
Commenting on the figures released today, the First Minister assured the nation that her government “does not shirk the responsbility” in tackling the crisis and remains “determined to make changes that will save lives”.
As #ResignSturgeon began trending on social media, political leaders in Scotland took turns to slam the SNP administration for its dereliction of duty in addressing the issue.
“Pitiful excuses about these statistics predating government actions are a disgrace,” Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, said.
“The SNP have been in power for 14 years. Drug deaths are Scotland’s shame because of their inaction.
“It is a fact that this crisis has got worse every single year that Nicola Sturgeon has been First Minister. She took her eye off the ball and the consequences have been devastating.
Former Labour MP Pamela Nash accused the Scottish government of obsessing over independence and claimed it had “taken its eye off the ball”, describing the figures as “devastating”.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, health spokesman for the Scottish LibDems said: “Every drug death is preventable. However, that task became ten times harder when SNP ministers cut the budget for critical prevention services by 22 per cent.”
He continued to accuse Ms Sturgeon of choosing to “ignore this unfolding epidemic” and claimed it was not “too late” for apologies, calling the shameful European record a “scar on the conscience of this Scottish government”.
Ms Sturgeon was pressed on the issue of drug-related deaths in an interview with ITV News’ Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith in October 2019, when she was warned that reduced government funding for health services would result in more deaths.
“You were warned that reducing the funding for addiction services would lead to an increase in death. You carried on with it anyway, and sure enough, the drug death rate shot up. You were warned that would happen!” Mr Smith put to the First Minister in 2019.
“This is serious – it’s an issue I take seriously,” Sturgeon replied. “The government is working to do all the things we can in our power.”
When warned that her government’s inaction would lead to yet another record high for 2020, Ms Strugeon assured viewers that her government was “taking action now”.