THERE is a vicious tenor to the proposals by Duncan McNeil, MSP, to withdraw treatment from drug addicts unless they agree not to have children until they beat their habit, to make them attend compulsory drug treatment services, and to make them take regular drug tests as a condition of receiving benefits. The apparent hypocrisy surrounding these proposals is deeply disquieting.

What's proposed dehumanises people who are in need of help and support simply because their problems are seen as too difficult and complex for society to deal with. These proposals unfairly single out drug users for "hardline" treatment and are completely at odds with the patient-centred approach which is a basic, accepted principle applying to other groups in need of social and health care.

Why is the focus on stricture and punishment instead of on offering the necessary resources, encouragement, patience and understanding to help and support people who have come to - or been forced to, in the absence of much else - rely on illegal drugs to get through their lives?

The chairman of the Scottish Association of Alcohol and Drug Action Teams states that alcohol more than drugs represents the greatest threat to young people in Scotland. Between 80,000 and 100,000 children in Scotland are affected by parental alcohol problems - up to double the numbers affected by parental drug use. Quite rightly, no-one is suggesting that we adopt such proposals for these parents, or those with obesity or mental health issues, or those with serious smoking problems - yet. Do we really care about child welfare, or is this just an exercise in moral judgment?

These proposals smack of cynical expediency and a depressing lack of vision. What's more, they conveniently overlook the role of poverty, lack of employment and other strategic issues far removed from the sphere of influence of the average drug user - yet which create the bleak environment and conditions which encourage drug problems to proliferate.

Graeme McArthur, Scottish Drugs Forum, 139 Morrison Street, Edinburgh.