UNDER-pressure Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick is facing a vote of no confidence amid repeated calls for him to resign over Scotland’s drugs deaths tragedy.

Mr FitzPatrick has been told to resign after Scotland’s drugs death crisis worsened – with statistics published this week showing deaths have risen to 1,264 in 2019, the highest number ever recorded.

Nicola Sturgeon was told at First Minister’s Questions to sack her minister but gave no indication she was set to fire him.

She said she would work with her public health minister on the next steps but failed to defend him against repeated opposition calls to sack him.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon moves to get a grip of drugs deaths crisis

The First Minister said she will take a more active role in a working group looking into the crisis and has apologised to the families impacted.

Scottish Labour has now lodged a motion of no confidence in Mr FitzPatrick, backed by teh Scottihs Liberal Democrats. 

Scottish Labour health and social care spokesperson, Monica Lennon, said: “Under Joe FitzPatrick’s watch, Scotland’s drug deaths crisis is becoming more and more tragic by the day.

“It’s clear that the Public Health Minister does not carry the confidence of the recovery community and those who are desperately fighting for access to treatment and rehab services. Regardless of what MSPs think of Joe as a person, that’s what matters most.

“When leading recovery activist Darren McGarvey is saying the minister ‘is incapable of leading us anywhere but the mortuary’, it should be obvious that it’s time to go.”

She added: “Scottish Labour has lodged a motion of no confidence in Joe FitzPatrick because the Parliament must take responsibility and send a signal that the victims of Scotland’s drug deaths epidemic do matter.

READ MORE: Public Health Minister told to resign amid 'human rights tragedy'

“We owe it to those who have died, their families and the thousands of drug users who are fighting to stay alive today to put someone competent in charge.

“The First Minister has said sorry and promised to be more hands-on in the New Year. If she’s serious about saving lives in 2021, she must have a new Minister by her side.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "Joe FitzPatrick is a likeable public figure but has shown repeatedly that he’s just not up to the job.

"He has publicly floundered when questioned about the vaccine and the devastating drug death statistics. He simply does not command the confidence of our party and very likely the parliament."

Ms Lennon’s motion states that “the Scottish Parliament has no confidence in the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing in light of his inadequate response to tackling drug related deaths”.

The motion needs 25 signatures in order to be debated in Holyrood.