Scotland politics

Home Office urged to attend emergency drugs summit

drug paraphernalia in Dennistoun (james Shaw)
Image caption In 2017, most drug-related deaths involved heroin but a large percentage had also taken pills

The Home Office has been urged to take part in an emergency summit about Scotland's record drugs deaths.

The number of drug-related deaths in Scotland soared to 1,187 last year, the highest rate since records began in 1996.

Scotland's Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick has said he will host a summit in Glasgow to discuss the crisis.

Mr FitzPatrick has invited the UK government to take part.

In his letter to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, Mr FitzPatrick described the "tragic" increase in drugs deaths as "unacceptable" and added: "I take seriously the impact this has on individuals, families and communities."

Mr FitzPatrick wrote: "In response to these shocking statistics, I am inviting the UK government to work with the Scottish government to tackle this problem which claims so many lives."

Asking for a government minister to attend a proposed emergency summit - expected to be held in Glasgow - about the problem, he added: "The Scottish government has already agreed that we will host such a summit, where government representatives, local authorities and the chair of Scotland's new drug deaths taskforce would be invited, ensuring the voices of those with experience of using drugs, and their families, are also heard.

"I understand that there is cross-party support for this conversation, including from [Scottish Conservative] Miles Briggs MSP, who has written to me to offer his support."

Image caption Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said the deaths were an "emergency"

Mr Briggs, the Scottish Conservative health spokesman, described the situation as a "national emergency" and called for "serious and detailed conversation".

He said: "This is a crisis that spans political divides, so we would hope that both Scottish and UK governments are involved."

The Home Office said it would be responding to Mr FitzPatrick's letter in due course and a spokesman added: "Any death related to drug misuse is a tragedy.

"The causes of drug misuse are complex and need a range of policy responses and many of the powers to deal with drug dependency such as healthcare, housing and criminal justice are devolved in Scotland.

"We are combating the illicit drug trade with the National Crime Agency and Border Force working to prevent serious organised crime and importation across Scotland.

"We will continue to work with Scottish government to tackle this problem which claims so many lives."

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