This week Michelle Ballantyne, MSP for South Scotland, spoke in the Scottish Parliament debate entitled ‘A New Approach Needed to Tackle Scotland’s Drugs Crisis.’
Mrs. Ballantyne, who is a former nurse and also started a charity that helps young people with drug and alcohol issues, told the Chamber about her experiences from the frontline.
The South Scotland MSP highlighted that as the head of a drug and alcohol service she previously gave evidence to the Scottish Government’s Futures Forum. Michelle Ballantyne goes on to highlight that there a difference in perceptions as politicians view the issue differently to those involved in treating it.
This week, the Scottish Conservatives announced their new drugs and alcohol strategy to combat the national drug crisis across Scotland. This year approximately 1,000 Scots are expected to die from drug related deaths.
A “second chance” plan for drug users and a target to slash drug deaths in half are at the centre of the new drugs strategy.
The strategy also backs a review of the SNP Government’s controversial methadone programme, and the creation of personalised “Life Plans” for every drug user so that, rather than simply managing addiction, government policy is designed to support users coming off drugs. Across NHS Lothian, 137 people died due to issues relating to drugs.
The Scottish Conservative plan comes with Scotland on track to record more than 1,000 drug deaths next year for the first time.
The ambitious strategy has a target to halve the number of drug deaths in five years and increase the number of problem drug users accessing treatment from 40 percent to 60 percent.
Michelle Ballantyne MSP highlighted the importance of having a long-term drug strategy and has called on the Scottish Government to listen to the expertise of those directly involved in providing drug and alcohol support.
Michelle Ballantyne MSP commented:
“It’s time that the SNP Government listen to what people on the ground are saying about tackling Scotland’s drug problem.
“In today’s debate, Politicians like Joane MacAlpine chose to talk about unemployment levels in the 1980s and grandstand rather than have a meaningful debate.
“This is an issue that the Scottish Government needs to take seriously. Rather than play politics with the topic, we need to really think about the most effective way to move forward.
“Before I was a politician, I gave evidence to the Scottish Government. My colleagues and I left that meeting with high hopes that we had a government that was listening and were genuinely going to tackle the causes through a programme of early intervention and supported treatment and harm reduction.
“Sadly, this has not been the case.
“We’re seeing the number of drug related deaths expected to rise. Whilst the SNP choose to avoid the issue, the Scottish Conservatives have released a plan on how we can deal with the problem.”