SNP ministers have been accused of complacency after failing to meet their own deadline to publish a new plan to help prevent suicides.

Former mental health minister Maureen Watt previously insisted a new strategy would be published before July – but the document has yet to emerge.

Now the Scottish Conservatives have demanded urgent action, backing calls for a new national body to be created to drive forward change and urging increased support for bereaved families.

The party’s mental health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “It’s not good enough that Scotland has been without a suicide prevention strategy for a year-and-a-half.

“The SNP government said it would publish this by the end of June, but still nothing has happened.

“This should be a priority area for any government, but clearly the SNP’s action doesn’t match its words.

“Suicide remains a major killer in Scotland, particularly among men, yet we have an SNP government that is being complacent. We cannot afford for this to drag on any longer.”

It comes as Police Scotland announced a new pilot project aimed at giving people in custody the chance to access mental health support.

Those who suffer from symptoms such as low mood, anxiety or depression will now be offered access to the NHS 24 helpline Breathing Space while they are in police custody.

New mental health minister Clare Haughey, who replaced Ms Watt in a cabinet reshuffle last month, said she was “determined that the new prevention plan continues the downward trend of suicides in Scotland”.

She said: “Among my first actions has been to meet with a number of key suicide prevention stakeholders as we work to finalise the measures that will be central to further reducing suicides. I intend to publish the new plan in the coming weeks.

“This will include delivering better support to those bereaved by suicide, developing reviews for all deaths from suicide, and investing at least £3 million to support a new national leadership group on suicide prevention.”

Official figures show there were 680 probable suicides in Scotland in 2017 – down from 728 the previous year. But there was a slight rise among men, from 517 in 2016 to 522 last year.

Based on five-year rolling averages, the long-term trend shows a reduction of 20 per cent in the suicide rate between 2002-2006 and 2013-2017.

The Scottish Government's last suicide prevention plan ran from 2013 to 2016.